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L I E) RARY 

OF THE 

U N IVLR5ITY 

Of ILLINOIS 

8Z3 

v./ 



\»-A 



V^ 



BOID k^J) EHEE. 



THE AUTHOR OF " CASTE," 



"Nothing is a misery 
Unless our weakness apprehend it so. 
We cannot be more faithful to ourselves 
In anything that's manly, than to make 
HI fortune as contemptible to us, 
As it makes us to others." 



EST THREE VOLIBIES. 
VOL. I. 



LONDON: 

HURST AND BLACKETT, PUBLISHERS, 

SUCCESSORS TO HENRY COLBURN, 

13, GREAT MARLBOROUGH STREET. 

1860. 

The right of TransJation is reserved. 



LONDON : 

printed by r. born, gloucester street, 
regent's park. 



?23 
JCS5b 

V.I 



BOND AND FREE. 



« 



CHAPTER I. 

" Is there no life but these alone ? 
Madman or slave, must man be one ? " 

It was Midsummer, and late afternoon. The 
handsome, but faded and dreary-looking, 
city dining-room had but two occupants. 
They were as silent as the stray sunbeam 
that had made its way through a gap 
between opposite houses, and was burning 
upon the only bits of bright colour in 
the apartment — the ruby and amber 
wines. 

YOL. I. B 



2 BOND AND FREE. 

This sunbeam, touching the word Poetics 
at the head of the page, drew the eyes 
of the younger man from his book ; they 
did not fall again, but absently watched 
its play upon the decanters, till the other 
occupant of the room, raising the Times 
newspaper to refold it, shut off the moted 
beam and changed both the direction of 
the gaze and the direction of the thoughts 
of his companion. 

At first the young man's face expressed 
mere annoyance at the prolonged rustling 
of the paper ; but presently his lips moved 
as if in a vain effort to speak, and his 
cheek flushed, and then grew paler than 
it had been before. It was some minutes 
before the silence was disturbed by his 
voice ; when he did speak, it was hoarsely 
and abruptly. 

"Sir ! why did you hate my father 
and mother ? The time is come when I 



BOND AND FREE. 



must know their history and my own 



name." 



Without even lifting his eyes, the per- 
son addressed demanded : — 

"Who has dared tell you that I hated 
them, boy ? '^ 

'^ Why will you never speak of them ? 
Why have I never been able to win 
more than toleration from you? Why do 
you sometimes look at me as at the 
likeness of a person you had hated, and 
seem to shrink from the very sound of 
my voice ? " 

" You are a fanciful young fool ! " was 
the short and coldly-spoken rejoinder. 

The young man^s slight form quivered 
— there was a momentary wild glare in 
his eyes, which, when he had exclaimed — 

*^ Bj Heaven, such answers shall not 
content me ! — you must tell me what I 
desire to know ! Why did you hate my 

b2 



4 BOND AND FREE. 

father and mother ? " — and waited for a 
reply, with his gaze fixed upon the stern 
man opposite — changed to an expression 
of shrinking and sufiering timidity. 

Mr. Ireton folded up his paper deliber- 
ately, and crossed his arms over it upon 
the table before he met the boy's eyes ; 
his face was even more grim than usual, 
and his manner more measured, as he 
said : — 

^^ Spoken like yourself, Wilfred Mason 
— ^ shall ' and ^ must ^ are words often in 
the mouths of children and weaklings ! 
I will try and answer like myself ; per- 
haps you understand me well enough to 
know that what I say I mean, and that 
appeal against my decisions will be un- 
availing. To a certain extent you are 
right. If you are in the same mad mind 
as yesterday, the time is come when you 
must learn all that you will ever learn 



BOND AND FREE. 5 

from me. You have chosen your own 
course ; when you leave this house it is 
barely possible that we shall meet again 
— I do not desire that we may." 

" You will tell me all, then — now, to- 
night?" 

" Neither now, to-night, nor ever ! '^ 

There was a brief silence while Wilfred 
struggled for power to speak. 

" I will not bear this burden of shame- 
ful doubt ! " he burst out passionately. 
*^ I cannot, and I will not, bear to live 
on in this cruel ignorance ; if you will 
not speak, I will try if Death can teach 
me what you refuse to let me know.'' 

"A truce to such contemptible blas- 
phemy. I refuse to answer your questions, 
but did I say that they should not be 
answered ? " 

'^You have told me that no one living 
but yourself can answer them." 



6 BOND AND FREE. 

" And I can no more answer them than 
if I were dead — a promise is sacred to 
me.'' 

"Did they, then, lay this curse of ignor- 
ance upon their child? Oh, God! what 
had I done that they should hate me 
so?" 

" Listen, boy, instead of raving — do the 
dead ever speak ? " 

'* No ; or long ago I should have learnt 
all. Night after night I have cried to 
Heaven for this knowledge. I have seen 
visions, spirits, and have dreamt dreams — 
but the dead do not speak." 

'*' My question did not concern the super- 
natural." Mr. Ireton's face and voice ex- 
pressed intense disgust and marvelling con- 
tempt. " Ever since the time you first 
came into this house I have had in my 
keeping a letter for you — from your mother" 
— (his harsh voice grew more harsh here, per- 



BOND AND FREE. 7 

haps because he strove to keep it from 
softening) *^ I do not know what it tells, 
or leaves untold ; all that you will ever 
know, however, all she chose that you should 
know." 

" You have kept it from me all these 
years ! You have known the torture ignor- 
ance has been to me, and you have let me 
suffer this torture for your pleasure." 

Putting up his hand, as if to ward off 
more such idle words, Mr. Ireton said — 

'* On the letter is written, ^ For my son 
Wilfred, when he finally leaves his guar- 
dian's care,' — earlier you were not to know 
of its existence. Difficult and distasteful as 
it was to me to undertake the guardian- 
ship of your father's child, I did under- 
take it — doing so, I have endeavoured rigidly 
to fulfil all the conditions of the trust. 
Be well assured of the vanity of applying 
to me for other or ampler information than 



8 BOND AND FREE. 

that contained in the letter which I shall 
give you, or cause to be given to you, as 
you leave this house." 

A weight of foreboding fell heavily on the 
boy's mind ; he fancied a measured malice in 
his guardian's tones. 

" For the matter of your name," Mr. 
Ireton continued, " it was not well that you 
should be branded '' (he watched the boy 
wince as he used this term) "by bearing 
your father's surname. The name of Wilfred 
is rightfully yours — that of ^ Mason ' was 
given you by me at hazard ; you may 
throw it off, and choose any other name 
you will." 

A pause ensued, during which the demon 
and the angel nature of man struggled for 
mastery in Wilfred's heart ; presently he 
said — 

*^ Last night, sir, you expressed a wish, 
which I must of course respect, that I 



BOND AND FREE. 9 

should never try to see you, never even 
address you by letter, after I have left your 
roof; therefore, I must now, while still in 
utter ignorance of the past, say all I ever 
say to you. If you had cause for re- 
sentment against my parents, if they had 
injured you, you have been generous towards 
their son. I cannot thank you for any ten- 
derness or affection ; but all that it was pos- 
sible for one human being to do for another, 
the inheritor of a just or unjust dislike,. I 
do believe you have done for me, and I 
wish to thank you.'* 

" Do not trouble yourself to get up any 
show of gratitude ; I expect none — I am 
honest enough to own that I deserve none. 
I opened my doors to you grudgingly, from 
a mixture of bad and indifferent motives, 
fully resolved never to open my heart. Year 
by year your presence has become more 
and more oppressive to me: soon the air 



10 BOND AND FREE. 

you breathed would have seemed to stifle 
me — I should have loathed it and you as the 
polluter of it." 

Wilfred started from his seat, sudden 
rage flaming from his eyes. This bitter 
vehemence from one he had always seen cold 
and calm stung him to the quick. 

Before he could speak, his guardian con- 
tinued : — 

^^ However, it is fruitless to talk thus. 
Quiet, boy, quiet ; you cannot leave my house 
till to-morrow ; I should have spared you those 
last words. To-morrow you will be free — 
free to enjoy a fooFs happiness in a mad- 
man^s Paradise. In the matter we discussed 
yesterday, your future mode of bread-earning, 
you thought, spoke, and decided as I expected 
you would — showing yourself weak, vain, 
ambitious, self-sufficient to infatuation. The 
position which I offered to secure for you, 
and which you regarded as one of degrad- 



BOND AND FREE. II 

ing slavery, would be a peculiarly suitable and 
safe position for you. Freedom is not good or 
possible for the multitude, only for the strong 
few : if you are not a slave, as you call it, 
to some external work, you will be a slave to 
your morbid imagination." 

^^ Had your offer been quite in accord- 
ance with my views, I must have declined 
any further aid from you, sir. I mean to 
starve or thrive in my own way. I am 
quite alone — no one will suffer by me, or 
through me. I think I could give no greater 
proof of madness than to bind myself to 
years of mechanical drudgery — what could I 
gain that would compensate for my loss ? '' 

** Spare me any elucidation of your pecu- 
liar theories ; reserve that for your young and 
admiring friends." 

" You know well that I have no friends 
— passing by a name not my own, and 
weighed upon by the consciousness that 



12 BOND AND FREE. 

some mystery hangs over me, I have always 
felt that I had no right to make friends." 

*^ The morbid view of a weak mind, 
determined to make the worst of its posi- 
tion and to indulge in the luxury of self- 
compassion; but if you have no friends, who 
is it takes you to his home to-morrow ? " 

'^ Herbert Southern is not a friend of 
my seeking — he would not be shaken off; 
but the acquaintance will end when my 
short visit to Beech Holmes is over." 

" Herbert Southern may find some day 
that he made a strange choice when he 
selected you as a friend; but now step 
with me into the next room — there is a 
little business to be got through before we 
can part." 

Wilfred obeyed. He was obliged to give 
his attention to minutely-detailed accounts 
of the expenditure of the money which had 
been entrusted to his guardian. 



BOND AND FREE. 13 

^^That almost the whole sum has been 
lavished upon your education — an education 
disproportionate to your prospects — is not 
my fault. In this I acted in accordance 
with the instructions I received from your 
mother. What views were entertained for 
you I can only conjecture ; no doubt they 
were firmly based on a firm belief in your 
irresistability and my generosity." 

" You are clever in torturing me — my 
ignorance makes me powerless to defend 
my mother's memory ! " Wilfred exclaimed, 

" To avoid torturing one so morbidly 
susceptible would be the harder task, boy. 
If your mother hoped that you would win 
my heart and become my heir, was that 
a crime in her ? Inhuman as you think 
me, I am not one who would strive to 
blacken a son's memory of his mother." 

At this moment, as a few times before 
in the course of those many years, the 



14 BOND AND FREE. 

boy^s heart seemed drawn towards his 
guardian. Mr. Ireton occasionally betrayed 
a grim nobility of nature, that had pe- 
culiar fascination for such a temperament 
as Wilfred's ; if the stern man had ever, 
even if only once in the course of years, 
softened to momentary tenderness towards 
the boy, subsequent coldness, even ferocity, 
would never have completely alienated the 
young heart, greedy of affection : but now 
the time was long past when Wilfred 
could humble himself at his guardian's 
feet, wistfully watching for, or passionately 
craving, some sign of kindly feeling. The 
old longing was swiftly followed by re- 
sentful recollection of old suffering — of 
nights spent in weeping, of dawns cheer- 
less and hopeless, of evenings whose gather- 
ing glooms were full of unconfessed terrors 
— of childhood and youth as joyless and 
loveless as can well be imagined. Re- 



BOND AND FREE. 15 

calling those things, he had so completely 
withdrawn into the past that he started 
when Mr. Ireton, who had been collect- 
ing and folding scattered papers, said: — 

^' I require a wtitten acknowledgment 
from you of the receipt of this small 
residue of 50/., and here, on this paper, 
I wish you to make a few statements. 
Have I ever lifted my hand against you? 
Have I let you want for anything it was 
in my power to give you ? — (in my 
power remember — it was not in my 
power to give you affection). Do I let 
you leave my house without having offered 
to put you in the way of earning a 
maintenance ? Write brief answers to these 
questions." 

Wilfred looked wonderingly into his guar- 
dian's face and then wrote, while Mr. Ireton 
added: — 

*^I may, or may not, have occasion to 



16 BOND AND FREE. 

make use of this paper ; but I wish to 
possess it." 

" Good," he said, presently, glancing at 
what Wilfred had written. " Concisely 
and well put; you do not want talent; 
all your instructors have spoken of natural 
gifts and of mental power that ought to 
achieve some kind of greatness. I dare- 
say you have admirers, who call you 
original — a genius. Nevertheless, Wilfred, 
you are eminently characterless, without 
strength of will, the pith and marrow of 
manliness ; your peculiarities are born of 
your weakness, not of your strength; you 
are variable, exacting, passionate — in a 
word, womanish. You overvalue intellect, 
and the advantages of mental culture. At 
the same time that you indulge a craving 
for love and impossible happiness, you ex- 
aggerate all the disadvantages of your lot, 
and magnify its minute ills." 



BOND AND FREE. 1 7 

Wilfred wondered at this slowly-doled 
out judgment, while he winced under its 
severity; he was, perhaps, conscious of its 
partial truth, though he struggled against 
this consciousness. He rose. 

"If I ofiPer you my hand, shall you 
take it ? " he asked his guardian, and his 
manner was not without a timid dignity. 
"I do not wish to carry away the sting 
of your refusal to touch me. I am your 
debtor for more than fifteen years of 
careful guardianship ; the debt is a heavy 
one to owe to a man who almost loathes 
me. If you are a Christian man, give me 
your hand, and with it your forgiveness 
of all my wilful offences. Will you take 
my hand ? " 

The boy's voice trembled, and his eyes 
shone with a womanish softness. Averting 
his face, after his glance had just touched 
Wilfred's, Mr. Ireton extended his hand ; 

VOL. I. c 



18 BOND AND FREE. 

it remained stiff and cold in the clasp 
of those slight fingers, " I wish you no 
ill/^ he muttered. 

Wilfred left the room, and the house; 
he needed more and purer air than was 
to be had in that dingy, dusty dwelling. 

Mr. Ireton drew a long breath, and 
threw up the window. 

" They all praise him," he muttered, 
"but what do they say of him? Not one 
of them speaks of stern will, of undaunted 
resolution, or of inflexible principle — not even 
of the promise of these things — how should 
the child of his parents have these? Yet 
without them, what are his other qualities 
worth ? How handsome the young fellow 
is ! If he had been my own son, and I had 
loved him — " here the speaker looked 
round the room drearily ; he listened, too, 
and was struck by the dead silence within 
the house, which seemed the deeper and 



BOND AND FREE. 19 

more dead by contrast with the stir and 
life without ; as he looked and listened, 
his thoughts were busy with the possi- 
bilities of the past — with things that might 
have been. 

By and by Mr. Ireton took two letters, 
one open, and one sealed, from his desk. 
The first he read through, saying, when 
he had finished it : — 

'^ Yes, I have done all she asked, and all 
I promised ; with what she hoped, I have 
nothing to do — she was, of course, un- 
reasonable." 

Taking the other letter in his hand, 
he gazed at it intently. 

^^ I would give much to know what 
this contains — how she speaks of herself, 
of me, of him, to her son. Truly women 
are wonderful — supreme in faith where 
they trust, as in treachery where they are 
trusted. She did not make one attempt 

c 2 



20 BOND AND FREE. 

at self-justification, and she confided to 
me what she loved beyond life. Experience 
taught her nothing, and she based brilliant 
hopes for that boy on qualities which, if 
they were ever mine, she had crushed out 
of me." 

The latest twilight found Mr. Ireton 
still sitting at his desk, still holding that 
faded letter in his hand. 



21 



CHAPTER 11. 

" Then black despair, 
The shadow of a starless night, was thrown 
Over the world in which I moved alone." 

Wilfred threaded the stifling streets 
rapidly, anxious to leave his guardian^s house 
and the city far behind. The vivid after- 
glow of a July sunset flamed across the sky ; 
but even when, as he passed an opening 
towards the west, the burning glory smote 
against him, he paid no heed to it. Making 
his way right on, following the course of the 
dark, slow-gliding river, past wharves and 



22 BOND AND FREE. 

warehouses, where vessels and bales of mer- 
chandise bore his guardian's name — past 
ugly suburbs, wanting alike in the life 
and bustle of the city, and the quiet and 
freshness of the country — he reached, at 
last, a waste and solitary district — a dis- 
trict of marshy meadow, disfigured by 
heaps of mineral refuse, some ruined chim- 
neys and hovels, and a disused and par- 
tially destroyed tramroad. 

Wilfred paused upon a bridge ; the city 
was behind him, the foul and sullen stream 
crept on towards it beneath his feet. As 
twilight fell, softly veiling the desolation of 
the scene, the country wind blew on him 
freshly, direct from distant meadows where 
the hay was down, and where that same 
stream was no doubt clear and fair — fringed 
with willow-herb, and meadow-sweet, and 
many another flower. 

The only sounds that reached him were 



BOND AND FREE. 23 

the continuous hum of the city, the fre- 
quent splash of a water-rat, the occasional 
cry of a water-fowl. Leaning his folded 
arms on the iron rail, he lingered long on 
the bridge. Fevered sense of impotence, 
resentment of the oppressions of fate, 
vague and yet deadly dread of the know- 
ledge to come, triumph in freedom, gloomy 
forebodings of the dreariness of life — these 
varied feelings resolved themselves into one 
overpowering consciousness of weakness, isola- 
tion, misery. With strange fascination the 
boy watched the snaky coilings of the oily 
stream ; meanwhile, in fancy he saw him- 
self plunging into it, sinking, being closed 
over by its cold blackness. Little search 
would be made for him, he thought; he 
would soon fade from the memory of 
the few who knew him, soon be utterly 
blotted out of the sum of human life. He 
repeated lingeringly such broken phrases 



24 BOND AND FREE. 

and sentences as " absolute rest," *^ to be 
as if I had never been," " to cast off this 
burden of being,'' '^ as the waters fail from 
the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth 
up, so to lie down and rise not," till a 
longing grew within him — a longing that he 
presently recognized with icy horror, and a 
strong recoil towards love of life. 

*' Surely I shall know happiness ere I 
die ? God ! grant me happiness ere I 
die ! " he cried, passionately ; *' I will not 
crave much — not wealth, or any kind of 
glory — only happiness and love ! " 

A light in the sky, a soft veiled splen- 
dour, attracted Wilfred's eyes ; the moon 
lifted herself up from the plain, sending a 
line of tremulous light to his feet along 
the black water. 

The studious, city-bred boy had no fami- 
liarity with such sights ; he felt as if an 
answer of peace and promise had been sent 



BOND AND FREE. 25 

to his soul — a gentle awe, a tender and 
religious hopefulness, stole over him. 

" The holy time is quiet as a nun 
Breathless with adoration." 

" The coy moon, in the soft wavyness 
Of whitest clouds, doth now her beauty dress ; 
And staidly paces, higher up and higher, 
Like a sweet nun in holy day attire." 

He murmured these and many passages 
from his favourite poets ; then he cried — 

"Nature, sweet mother Nature, take me, 
too, to thy breast — teach me the hidden 
secrets of thy being, and show me the mys- 
teries of beauty. Let me be among the 
humblest of thy priests, to interpret thee to 
the love and wonder of the world ! " 

The boy was ardent and sincere ; his 
heart beat loud and fast, and his eyes had 
filled, partly from the intensity of vague 
longing, partly from the intensity of his out- 
ward gaze. 



26 BOND AND FREE. 

The white moonlight on the water was 
rippled with blackness as the night wind 
rose ; when, presently, a cloud altogether 
obscured the moon, Wilfred left the bridge 
and turned his face homewards, shuddering 
with a sudden sense of something not un- 
like fear. 

That cloud soon passed, however ; and as 
he went towards the city, the climbing 
moon hunted him with shadows which some- 
times startled and made him stumble as 
if real obstacles lay in his path. 

"Is it so in my inner life ? " he asked 
himself; *^ do I let mere shadows assume 
form and substance, and then recoil from 
them as from real evils ? " 

It was midnight when Wilfred reached 
his guardian's house, and climbed noiselessly 
to his room — a large, low garret ; his own 
choice — he might have had any other apart- 
ment in the house, but this had two advan- 



BOND AND FREE. 27 

tages — it was a long way from that occu- 
pied by his guardian, and from one of its 
small casements he could obtain a glimpse 
of the river, winding towards the city, 
through marshy meadows, from among the 
distant hills. 

It was his custom to study half the 
night, and his lamp stood as usual ready 
beside his books ; he did not light it, how- 
ever, but threw himself upon his bed, to 
watch the clouds scudding rapidly across 
the moon, and to think of the change of 
life impending. 

To the dreamy gazer the moon appeared 
as a fair face, now veiled by ebony, now 
by shadowy, tresses, and now fully revealed. 
As he grew more dreamy yet, the fair 
face became his mother's, the clouds were 
aspersions of her perfect truth and good- 
ness, the wind was the breath of knowledge 
which should disperse these clouds, and let 



28 BOND AND FREE. 

her fame shine forth pure and bright, as the 
moon's face when the heaven is unclouded. 

The dreamy eyes grew heavy — they 
closed at the cool kiss of a moonbeam, and 
forgot to open. 

Some time after Wilfred had fallen asleep 
a cautious step ascended the stairs, and a 
stealthy hand pushed his room door open. 
Mr. Ireton entered, walked up to the bed, and 
paused beside it. Wilfred's sleeping face 
was womanishly beautiful ; yet even now, 
when rest relaxed its lines, it would have 
looked old and worn as a woman's face. 
Perhaps Mr. Ireton was reminded of some 
beautiful woman whom he had last seen 
when her face was worn and haggard. His 
gaze was a long one. He did not move 
till Wilfred raised his arms wildly, as if 
to push something from him, as if even in 
his sleep he were troubled by that gaze. 

In his retreat, Mr. Ireton came face to 



BOND AND FREE. 29 

face with a something that caused him to 
start. The moonlight had reached the side 
of the room nearest the door; it shone 
upon something erect and white in a dark- 
lined recess; a woman's bust placed on a 
pedestal, of the height of a moderately tall 
woman — the pedestal concealed by drapery, 
falling from the shoulders to the ground. 

" Fantastic boy ! " Mr. Ireton muttered. 
" There is some resemblance — he remem- 
bers her, it seems. The brow is hers, — low, 
broad, and, any stranger would have said, 
candid ; the mouth is hers, sweet and firm 
as I used to think hers, and the head is 
set upon the shoulders with the same meek 
dignity.'' 

Mr. Ireton returned to his study — day- 
light surprised him there. He left the 
house early, to avoid risking another meet- 
ing with his ward. 

Soon after dawn Wilfred was stirring; 



30 BOND AND FREE. 

two sides of his room were covered with 
books from the floor to the low ceiling — 
old books most of them, out of which 
their former owner's name had been cut; 
all these he had to pack. Besides his 
books, he had a few pictures and engrav- 
ings, and the precious bust ; when he 
displaced this, he took it tenderly into 
his arms, set it on the window-seat, and 
knelt before it. Truly he was, what his 
guardian called him, a fantastic boy — for 
he laid his cheek against the white face, 
pressed his lips upon the cold mouth, 
lavished fond words and farewell caresses 
upon the inanimate clay. The set sweetness 
of the mouth, the unruffled calmness of 
the brow, appeared to pain him. 

"Is it to be thus with me through 
life?" he cried. "Will my heart beat 
itself out against a cold, unyielding fate? 
Shall I lavish my all of love and life, 
and receive nothinfij in return ? " 



BOND AND FREE. 31 

Still kneeling before the lovely face, he 
thought of Pygmalion and his marble — 
thought and gazed so intently that he 
seemed to see the rose-hue of life creep 
over the cheeks, the golden tints and 
gleamy light of life coil among the wavy 
tresses, the lips grow warm and moist, 
the eyelids quiver, and the bosom heaved 
by soft-sighing breath. 

A tap at his door startled Wilfred to 
his feet — startled colour into a face that 
had been almost as white as that on 
which it gazed. 

A woman, past middle age, and with a 
face expressive of anything but sweetness 
of temper, came into the room. 

" Your breakfast is waiting in the 
dining-room, Mr. Wilfred ; while you're 
having it, I will pack your linen, sir." 

Wilfred hastened to leave the field free 
for the housekeeper's operations. Having 



32 BOND AND FREE. 

taken a cup of coffee, and found that 
he could eat nothing, he went out, and 
wandered through the streets, ^leditating 
what parting present he should buy for 
her. Fifty pounds was the sum he pos- 
sessed with which to begin life ; he spent 
five on a brooch for his grim friend, his 
guardian's housekeeper. 

On his return to the house, he paused 
outside the door of his room, hearing 
strange sounds within ; on entering, he 
found Mrs. Smith kneeling before a nearly 
full box, her face almost hidden in her 
apron, sobbing violently. 

AVilfred approached her, put his hand 
on her shoulder, stooped, and kissed her 
cheek, blushing as he did so. 

^^Oh, don't, Mr. Wilfred, sir! I don't 
deserve it ! " she gasped out between her 
sobs. ** I never thought it would come 
to this — I never thought master would 
cast you off like this ! " 



BOND AND FREE. 33 

" He does not cast me off, Mrs. Smith. 
I make my own choice — I wish to be 
free. Indeed, Mrs. Smith, you must not 
cry so ; I little knew I had so warm a 
friend in this house — if I had known this 
sooner, I should often have felt less deso- 
late in it." 

^^Tve not been your friend, Mr. Wilfred 
— it's partly that as hurts me now." 

^^ I am sure you have no reason to 
reproach yourself I only meant that 
though you have been kind — " 

"Bless your poor heart, that doesn't 
know what kindness is. It's no use talking 
now, however — " and she dried her eyes; 
"be pleased to accept these, sir; I've had 
pleasure in getting them ready — may you 
live to wear them out, and many more 
after them ! " As she spoke, she pointed 
to a pile of new shirts and a multitude 
of collars lying by her. 

VOL. I. D 



34 BOND AND FREE. 

Wilfred thanked her, and begged her to re- 
member him, sometimes, when she fastened on 
the brooch he offered her. Saying that it was 
not fit for her, but for some pretty young lady, 
and that she did not deserve it, Mrs. Smith 
took it, and, as she passed her hand over it ad- 
miringly, added — 

** The air of this house isn't good air to 
breathe so many years, sir ; it makes the 
heart shrivel up. I set myself against you be- 
fore ever you set foot over the threshold, 
saying you'd bring ill luck and trouble to 
master ; and I've never done what I ought by 
you. I shall lie awake thinking of you many 
a night, sir, and wishing to have the past 
over again — that'll be my judgment." 

Wilfred's kind and re-assuring words were 
only received with sighs and shakings of the 
head ; so, leaving Mrs. Smith to complete her 
arrangements, he went over the whole of the 
dreary house, for the last time — lingering 



BOND AND FREE. 35 

here and there, and feeling something like 
regret at his heart. 

Eemembering presently that he had not 
commended the bust to Mrs. Smith's especial 
care, he ran hastily upstairs to do so. As he 
opened the door he saw it lying upon the 
floor, broken in many pieces. A sudden gust of 
wind had swung the casement to, and jarred 
it from its place. This accident struck Wil- 
fred as an evil omen ; he allowed it to throw 
an unreasonable gloom over his spirit. 

It was not till he was quite ready to leave 
that the packet, his mother's letter, was given 
into Wilfred's hand by Mrs. Smith. Pressing it 
close against his heart, he passed out of the 
mouldy house into the midsummer glare and 
heat. Crossing to the opposite side of the 
bustling street, he looked up at the ranges 
of black windows, and muttered — 

" So, at last, I leave you for ever — and 
leave my joyless youth within your walls ! " 

D 2 



36 BOND AND FREE. 

His one desire then was to find some quiet 
place in which he could open and read his mo- 
ther's letter. How many homeless ones of 
our great cities must, in some crisis of their 
fate, have been driven to desperation, being 
hunted from place to place by countless eyes 
and ceaseless noise. Had he not noticed, as he 
passed the mouth of a low-arched passage 
leading to old St. Jonah's, that the church 
door stood partly open, Wilfred might have 
sought long and vainly for some place of re- 
fuge. He entered the church thankfully : it 
was dim, cool, solitary, and he had an hour be- 
fore him ere he need meet his friend, Herbert 
Southern, at the station. 

Seeking out the most obscure nook of the 
mouldering cloisters, he seated himself on the 
fragments of a ruined arch, and drew the letter 
out into the daylight. 

Believing that, at last, he held the long de- 
sired knowledge in his hand, he trembled : per- 



BOND AND FREE. 37 

haps ignorance was safer and happier than 
this knowledge. He studied the fine, free 
hand-writing on the outer cover, and the seal, 
on which was the one word "Hester." He 
pressed his lips on this name — his mother's 
name; repeated the name to himself — repeated 
what he firmly believed, that she, at least, was 
pure, true, and loving ; and then, taking great 
heed not to break the seal, he opened that 
outer cover. A smaller sealed packet fell at his 
feet — its face was closely written over with 
these words — 

" My son, your mother's hope is that this 
packet will never come into your hands during 
your guardian's life — that you will never 
leave your guardian's care, except to return to 
it again — that you will be as a son to him. 
If it should not be so, I implore you, I 
command you — it is a mother loving you 
above life who speaks — not to break this seal 
till John Masters Ireton is dead. Whatever 



38 BOND AND FREE. 

you believe of your mother — always believe 
that she loved you above herself— that it is not 
her own fame, but your peace and safety, she 
is studying now.'* 

Wilfred read these words many times before 
he mastered their sense. He felt sick and 
stunned ; even when he had read them many 
times, he continued to gaze at the closely- 
written lines blankly and stupidly. Motion 
near him, caused by the perching of a sparrow 
on a tall weed, drew off his gaze, and then it 
dwelt with the same absorbed vacancy on the 
rank grass. 

A kind of rage woke within him when he 
roused from this stupor. Pacing up and down 
the cloister he muttered a hundred times — 
" Cruel caution ! cruel caution ! To be doomed 
to bear the burden on for years, perhaps for 
my whole life ! Oh mother ! yours was cruel 
caution.'' 

The idea of hunting out his late guardian 



BOND AND FREE. 39 

and of trying to force the secret from him, 
crossed his mind only to be immediately aban- 
doned — he knew any such attempt would be 
utterly futile. Lost in wild fancies and som- 
bre imaginings, Wilfred forgot the flight of 
time ; things past, present, and to come jostled 
each other in his disordered mind. By-and- 
by a benignant light dawned over this chaos — 
^^ She loved me — it is sweet to know surely 
how she loved me! '' As he murmured this, tears 
came to his eyes, and soft consolation entered 
into his heart; but the light was transient, 
soon overclouded. Shuddering horror shut 
out consolation, as he thought — "The 
knowledge from which she tried so ear- 
nestly to shield me must be dreadful 
indeed ! " 

Three hours had past since Wilfred had en- 
tered the church, when the clanging to of a 
heavy door startled him to a sense of pre- 
sent engagements and responsibilities; but 



40 BOND AND FREE. 

just in time — one door into the church was 
already locked — in another minute, escape 
from the cloisters would have been impos- 
sible for that day. 

Launched upon the noise and bustle of 
the street, Wilfred was jostled to and fro, 
and carried here and there, by eager passers- 
by ; till, presently, an arm was linked in 
his, a voice in his ear cried, 

" Found at last ! Wake, dreamer ! Come, 
double-quick, for heaven's sake ! or we shall 
lose the last train that makes it possible to 
get home to-night." 

*^ I am very sorry — I had forgotten," 
Wilfred began as he was hurried on. 

" Forgotten ! I have put the housekeeper 
at Ireton's in a pretty state by going there 
to ask for you. You must write to her to- 
morrow, for she looked as if she thought 
you might have drowned yourself" 

** Did she ? — ah ! " And in spite of the hur- 



BOND AND FREE. 41 

ried pace at which he was led on, in spite of 
his companion's gay talk, Wilfred's imagina- 
tion returned to the dread speculations of 
the last few hours. 



42 



CHAPTER III. 

"Wie einst mit flehenden Verlangen 
Pygmalion den Stein umschloss. 

So schlang ich micli mit Liebes armen 
Um die Natur, mit Jugendlust, 
Bis sie zu athmen, zu erwarmen 
Begann an meiner Dichter-brust." » 

" Here we are ! Throw your bag down 
to Eoger. All well, Roger? — that's right." 
Herbert Southern had jumped from the 
coach — had helped his friend down — their 
luggage had been taken off and piled on 
Roger's barrow — the coach had pursued its 
way and disappeared, before Wilfred com- 



BOND AND FREE. 43 

prehended that they had reached Beech 
Holmes, their destination. 

There was no house in sight — only a pic- 
turesquely ruinous, ivy-clad lodge, stand- 
ing close to entrance -gates, whose pillars 
were correspondingly ruinous and ivy-clad, 
which opened upon an avenue of gigantic 
beeches — the beeches being very ancient, 
having many unlopped dead limbs and half- 
severed wind-cracked branches, had something 
of the picturesquely ruinous look of the 
cottage and the pillars. 

It was evident that no one was expected 
to appear from this lodge, for young Southern 
held the gates open while Eoger wheeled 
the barrow through them ; that accomplished, 
he turned to Wilfred. 

"You have been quite lost the whole 
journey through, old fellow! — pray find your- 
self now, for they are all coming down the 
avenue to meet us.'' 



44 BOND AND FREE. 

Even now no house, not even the chim- 
ney of one, was to be seen ; yet down the 
avenue, through the glancing evening sun- 
beams and the fantastic shadows, came a 
large family party. 

A tall, black-robed lady, wearing a widow's 
mourning — young ladies in muslin dresses, 
with floating curls and waving ribbons — a 
youthful matron, her little children, her 
husband and husband's brother. 

" The whole Southern force ! " Herbert 
remarked — secretly wishing, as he remem- 
bered his friend's lonely estate, that he had 
given his mother some hint that would have 
secured a less demonstrative welcome. 

" That we have been travelling through 
enchanted ground I know, by token of the 
instantaneous disappearance of the coach 
when we had done with it. It is plain that 
this, too, is fairy-land, and that this is a 
fairy-band approaching ; there is no habita- 



BOND AND FREE. 45 

tion in sight, but, of course, the trunks of 
these magnificent trees open to receive 
their fairy ships at will. Walk slower," 
Wilfred pleaded, ^^give me breathing-time, 
before you present me." 

" Ah, Felicia ! always the first to meet 
your old brother! — you know who is his 
favourite." 

A child had separated from the group 
and come forward — a child with a small, 
exquisitely fair, pale face, framed heavily 
by masses of golden-threaded brown hair 
hanging on her shoulders. She submitted si- 
lently to her brother^s hearty embrace; 
when he released her, she folded her tiny 
hands over one of his, and pressed her 
cheek against his coat-sleeve with a quiet 
fervour hardly childlike, looking up at him 
with eyes radiant with gladness, yet serene 
and calm. 

The child loosened her clasp of her bro- 



46 BOND AND FREE. 

ther's hand after a few moments — relin- 
quishing him to his mother, in whose arms 
he was clasped close with a fervent "welcome 
home, my son." Then his sisters, his brother- 
in-law, and his tiny nephews and nieces, all 
claimed their share of his notice. 

Wilfred stood just a little apart — for a 
few moments quite forgotten ; he started 
when a soft warm hand stole into his; 
looking down he met a clear, and, it seemed 
to him, compassionate gaze from the child 
Felicia's eyes. She smiled at him a timid 
smile, that went straight to his heart. As 
yet he had not heard her speak. 

Young Southern, released from his sisters' 
embraces, tossed back his bright disordered 
locks, and looked round for his friend ; he 
smiled significantly, seeing that Felicia had 
taken him under her protection. 

It was now Wilfred's turn to receive a 
hearty and kindly welcome; but, as they 



BOND AND FREE. 47 

all ascended the avenue, he retained the 
little hand that had, unsolicited, crept into 
his. That avenue, illuminated by the low 
sunbeams, the trunks of the ancient trees 
turned to ruddy gold in the level light, 
struck Wilfred as marvellously beautiful. 
Mrs. Southern talked to her young guest 
of the loveliness of the country he had 
passed through — of the heat of the wea- 
ther, and the length of the journey ; while, 
as Wilfred noted, her glistening eyes, dwelt 
fondly on her tall son, who, walking before 
them surrounded by his sisters, often tossed 
back a glad look upon his mother. 

The avenue, which was about half a mile 
in length, came to an end at the foot of 
a broad flight of steps, where a carriage- 
road branched off from it and curved round 
to the side of the house. A cedar of Le- 
banon, growing at the top of these steps, 
sweeping the balustrade with its branches. 



48 BOND AND FREE. 

did not yet allow the house to be seen. 
It was not tiU the steps had been as- 
cended, and the wide-spreading cedar passed 
under, that it was visible. Surrounded by 
a broad stone terrace, which had to be 
gained by another flight of steps, the house 
looked rather insignificant, compared with 
the splendid avenue by which it was ap- 
proached; but its appearance was at once 
picturesque and exquisitely homelike — the 
evening light brought out to the full the 
rich colours of the lichens and mosses which 
grew about its heavy porch and muUioned 
windows. 

The whole party lingered a little while 
before entering the house. The terrace- 
pavement was imperfect and moss-grown; 
its broad-topped balustrade was chipped and 
broken, as were the ancient vases with 
which it was set; but the balustrade was 
luxuriantly overhung by blossoming creep- 



BOND AND FREE. 4^9 

ers, and the vases were well filled with 
drooping plants. 

Perhaps Beech Holmes was the more 
beautiful — beautiful with rich-tinted, yet 
pathetic autumnal beauty — for the air of 
decay that breathed from its loveliness. 
Wilfred felt a poetry of contrast, as he gazed 
on the forms of human and youthful strength 
and beauty, and on the crumbling, weed- 
grown masonry that must have echoed to 
the feet and voices, and been touched and 
leant on by the hands and forms of many 
generations, long since passed away ; he did 
not consciously moralize, but felt as if 
wrapped round by a dream-atmosphere steal- 
ing out from between the pages of some fair 
and ancient romance. 

The terrace overlooked a wide extent 
of wood, vale, and water ; beyond the water, 
line after line of mountainous hill rose up 

VOL. I. E 



50 BOND AND FREE. 

and fell away, melting, to-night, into a daz- 
zling, golden distance. 

*' You like it very much, don't you ? '' 
Felicia asked Wilfred, speaking for the first 
time since she had met Herbert. Her tone 
was low and confidential : Wilfred had to 
bend down to catch her words ; he used a 
similar tone, answering : — 

" I have never seen anything so per- 
fectly beautiful — it is to me what your 
very brightest fairy-tales must be to you." 

" But I do not like fairy-tales very 
much, because I cannot believe them." 

Mrs. Southern's high, clear voice now 
made itself heard, summoning the young 
people to the tea-table. Turning to Wilfred 
she said : — 

^* I hope our noisy party will not quite 
bewilder you, Mr. Mason ; you must be used 
to much more quiet than I can maintain 
amongst my riotous children." 



BOND AND FREE. 51 

*' The life to which I have been used 
must, indeed, be different from your life 
here — as different as winter from summer, 
as the dullest prose from the fairest poetry." 

" I only hope that the jingle of our 
poetry may not make you recoil towards 
the quiet of your prose," Mrs. Southern said, 
smiling indulgently at the young man's 
warmth of expression. 

*^ Welcome to our home ! " Herbert whis- 
pered in Mason's ear, putting his hand on 
his shoulder, as they passed through the 
low porch and entered a lofty, oak-raftered 
hall. 

The whole party was soon seated at table, 
in a long room which ran the length of 
one wing of the house; one side and one 
end of this room retained the old-fashioned 
casements, set deep in the thick wall and 
admitting but little light — while, at the other 
end, modern plate-glass windows opened on 

E 2 

UNIVERSITY OF ILUMQia 



52 BOND AND FREE. 

to the terrace, at the back of the house. 
From the terrace, on this side, as on the 
other, the ground sloped away ; but here it 
fell more gradually — steps cut in the turf 
broke the descent at the steepest parts. 
This slope was sparingly dotted over with 
gaunt, much belichened fruit-trees, for the 
most part past bearing, the survivors of a 
once thickly-planted and productive orchard. 
Below the orchard ran a broad, shallow 
stream of sparkling brown water, across 
which was thrown a light bridge ; from the 
stream the ground rose again, ascending, 
in broken lines, well-wooded to a consider- 
able height, towards a mountain peak that 
showed gray and hoary in the distance. 

The tea-table, with its brilliant silver, deli- 
cate china, piles of fruit, fragrant flowers, 
and ample provision of cool and pleasant 
dainties, all prettily addrned, gratified the 
hitherto not merely unsatisfied, but almost 



BOND AND FREE. 53 

undeveloped requirements of Wilfred's taste. 
His appointed place was between Felicia, who 
always sat next her mother, and Margaret 
Landon, the eldest and married daughter — 
the beautiful daughter par excellence. Some 
mirth was excited by the younger Mr. Lan- 
don^s assertion of the positive necessity of his 
sitting beside Blanche, to assist her in pour- 
ing out the coffee, and by the doubtful 
results of this assistance. The tale told 
by Blanche's gentle confusion, and her happy 
blushes, made her pretty face almost as in- 
teresting to Wilfred's observant eyes as it 
was to John Landon's. 

Wilfred found so much to observe in the 
faces, and to listen to in the conversation, 
round him, that he was disinclined to talk. 
His beautiful neighbour, interested in her 
brother's friend, gave herself some trouble 
in trying to draw him out. A student 
herself, she loved to talk of books, and by- 



54 BOND AND FREE. 

and-by both she and Wilfred were deaf to 
the light skirmish of merry talk kept up 
round the table, and deep in the beauties of 
an author who was a favourite with both. 

Herbert greatly admired his eldest sister, 
and had been anxious that she should like 
his friend ; he was delighted now to see 
their interest in each other — to see Wilfred's 
pale face light up, his eyes gleam as he 
listened, and kindle as he spoke. It is true, 
they talked only of books ; but it is difficult 
to speak about the heart of beautiful books 
without showing something of the inmost 
feelings of one's own heart. Wilfred, who 
had never before talked with a young and 
beautiful-natured woman, felt some things 
Mrs. Landon said to be as revelations from an 
undreamed-of world — while others put into fit 
words thoughts and fancies of his own which 
he had deemed too sacred for expression, but 
which seemed to gather vivid life-lil^eness, 



BOND AND FREE. 55 

without losing anything of sacredness, when 
they were uttered by her lips and, still more 
touchingly, by her eyes. 

Speaking of Wilfred to her husband, long 
after this evening, Margaret said : — 

" Talking with Mr. Mason is like talking 
with a woman — I don't exactly know why; 
only, while he has far more intellectual 
power than any woman I know, he has a 
chivalrous patience with one's imperfect know- 
ledge and imperfect speech which few women 
would have." 

When the merry meal was over, and every- 
body had risen from the table, Wilfred said to 
Herbert : — 

'* Let me be alone a little while ; every- 
body wants you, and I am quite bewildered. 
You cannot imagine how strange to me all 
here seems — it is like a fragment from some 
other state of being." 

" Be one of us as soon as possible — that 



5Q BOND AND FREE. 

is all we require of you/' Herbert answered. 
John and Blanche, lingering on the terrace 
in the dusk, saw Wilfred descend the slope, 
cross the stream, and vanish among the 
trees ; but before he had left the close 
neighbourhood of the house he had seen a 
picture the beauty of which long haunted 
him. In a small room, lighted by one shaded 
lamp, the elder Mr. Landon was enjoying a 
good-night gambol with his children ; stretched 
on the floor at his wife's feet, he submitted 
to various rough treatment from the two 
elder — a sturdy boy and girl — while the 
youngest, already in its tiny white night- 
dress, stood on its mother's lap, supported by 
her arm, leaning its head against her cheek, 
and surveying the proceedings with a calm, 
superior, pensive air. The light of the lamp 
fell full on Margaret ; she watched the group at 
her feet with that peculiar smile, more of the 
eyes than of the lips, which some of the old 



BOND AND FREE. 57 

masters have given to their Madonnas — a 
smile the contemplation of which induces 
sadness, seeming, in its too utter sweetness, 
its perfect happiness, to contain a threat of 
bitterness and tears to come. 

Though Wilfred turned quickly from con- 
templation of this scene, feeling as if such 
happiness were awful in its holiness, the 
memory of it often recurred to him in after 
years, when a face, not Margaret's, would 
wear the expression of Margaret's, and shine 
in the stead of Margaret's. 

To-night he sped on, up the opposite hill, 
till he had cleared the wood ; then he threw 
himself upon the ground, pressing his face 
down into the mossy turf — feeling that he 
threw himself lovingly upon the bosom of this 
lovely nature, embracing her with ardour. 

When he lifted up his face, by-and-by, there 
was moisture on it, either of dew or of tears. 
He lay and watched the smoke from the 



58 BOND AND FREE. 

house-chimneys curling up against the clear, 
delicious glow of the sky — watched the 
lights kindling in one window after another 
— watched the late birds wheeling home — 
and watched for the rising of his last 
night's friend, the moon. Last night ! 
Was it only last night he had stood upon 
the dreary bridge above the foul water? 
How long ago it seemed ! 

A strange mingling of rapture and agony 
rose and fell in Wilfred's breast: one mo- 
ment it seemed to him that he had obtained 
a glimpse into the very heart of life's pos- 
sible beauty and sweetness — only to be re- 
minded, by the sealed packet in his bosom, 
that such beauty and sweetness were not 
among the possibilities of his life; the next 
his nature rebelled against this sentence of 
exclusion — a wild sense of undefined and 
unbounded power asserted itself — he sprang 
up, crying that his intense craving fpr 



BOND AND FREE. 59 

love and happiness, his hunger after them, 
should be to him a foreboding of the satis- 
faction of this hunger and craving. 

He was proceeding to climb higher up 
the hill, when Southern's voice recalled 
him. 

^' Do you mean to spend the night out 
here? They have been asking for you. 
Felicia didn't want to go to bed without 
having said 'good night' to you." 

The young men went towards the house 
together. 

"Margaret is going to sing — I want you 
to hear her," Herbert remarked, as they 
drew near. 

'* Don't smother me with roses, or crush 
me with a shower of gold — I could not 
bear to hear your sister sing to-night. 
Pray make my excuses, and let me go to 
my room. I daresay you think me absurd; 
you don't know all I have endured to- 



60 BOND AND FREE. 

day, and you cannot guess all I shall have 
to endure for many a day." 

*^ I want you to do what you like best ; 
only I shall see you safe to your room. 
You are put into an out-of the-way nook, 
for the sake of ensuring you the possibility 
of quiet." 

After leading the way up several short 
flights of stairs, and along many passages. 
Southern pushed open a low-arched door 
of heavy oak. As he lighted the candles 
that stood ready on the table, he con- 
tinued : — 

" I hope I may trust you not to sit up 
— you look thoroughly tired out. Sleep 
well, and wake up one of us — your iron 
guardian and his gloomy house quite for- 
gotten. I am afraid that your parting from 
the man of iron was none of the pleasant- 
est. You must tell me about it to-morrow. 
Good night, my dear old fellow." 



BOND AND FREE. 61 

With the heartiest of hand-shakes, and 
the most beaming friendliness in his eyes, 
Herbert departed. 



62 



CHAPTER IV. 

"Verweile doch! du bist so schon." 

Wilfred was roused next morning by sounds 
strange to him — sounds of just-awakened 
birds and of lightly-stirred leaves ; while 
through an open window the morning air 
came to him, laden with fragrance from 
flowers in the garden and heather on the 
hills. 

The low, oak-raftered room in which he 
found himself had many casements, each 
offering a lovely picture of distant moun- 
tainous landscape, of slopes lying in pure 



BOND AND FREE. 63 

morning shadows, and summits gay in 
laughing light ; the creepers clustering 
round the window-frames set these pictures 
charmingly. 

The room was more like a library than 
a bed-room; its walls were clothed with 
old-fashioned, well-filled bookcases ; the chairs 
and tables were of substantial oak; a good 
many bronze statuettes and busts, and 
several vases full of freshly-cut roses, 
adorned it. 

It was a new thing for Wilfred to wake, 
as he did this morning, to a sense of phy- 
sical and spiritual wellbeing — to a conscious- 
ness of the purity and beauty of the atmo- 
sphere he breathed, and with the expecta- 
tion that the day would bring him none 
but good things, leaving him richer, happiet", 
and better than it found him. 

"I have made no compact with any Me- 
phistopheles," he said — " I need not be afraid 



64 BOND AND FREE. 

to cry to this time, ^ Verweile doch ! du bist so 
schon ' — I do cry it with my whole heart ! " 

He repeated the words in a clear, loud 
voice, and then murmured over to himself 
passage after passage from the old poets, 
in simple, betinzled, or worthily adorned 
praise of domestic and country life. 

Afterwards he tried to recall everything 
that had occurred since he reached Beech 
Holmes — ^ tried to recall every kind 
word that had been spoken to him, every 
peculiarly beautiful expression he had no- 
ticed on faces which all seemed to him, in 
various ways, lovely. The one sensation 
which he remembered with most especial 
pleasure was that he had experienced when 
the child Felicia's hand so unexpectedly and 
confidently stole into his own. As he in- 
dulged in this dreamy luxury of enjoyment, 
his own thoughts sprang from his brain — 
ready armed in words, the sound of which 



BOND AND FREE. 65 

pleased him. He was far too indolently 
happy to do more than murmur them over, 
as he had murmured his quotations before ; 
but a hazy wonder rose in him and floated 
waveringly before his eyes — wonder whether 
he should ever have power to write words 
over which the eyes of beautiful women 
should grow tearful, at which the cheeks 
should flush and pale, as Margaret Landon's 
had done, while she repeated a short passage 
from a favourite poem. 

A clear young voice singing far beneath at 
last drew Wilfred to the window. He could 
see Felicia's fair head glancing in and 
out among the rose-bushes, in a garden 
that looked very deep down ; he made 
haste to go out, but did not find it very 
easy to discover that garden and the way 
into it. 

He succeeded at last; and, having re- 
ceived her morning greeting, enquired 

VOL. I. F 



66 BOND AND FREE. 

what her occupation was, and if he might 
be allowed to help her. 

" 1 should very much like you to help 
me," she answered. " I want to cut off 
every one of the dead roses along this walk, 
and some are so high up that I cannot 
reach them. Will you take my scissors and 
my basket? I will run in and fetch an- 
other pair of scissors — the basket will do 
between us." 

She was soon back and they both set to 
work — Wilfred stipulating that they should 
keep close enough together to talk as they 
worked. Sometimes the dead roses, and 
often showers of dew, fell upon Felicia's 
silky locks. Wilfred liked to see her shake 
these off — she did it with such patient and 
grave dignity ; her whole manner was sim- 
ple and sincere — there was no trace of 
childish coquetry about her. Once, when a 
long curl got entangled in a thorny branch. 



BOND AND FREE. jft? 

Wilfred was obliged to go to the rescue. 
He touched the child's hair lovingly and 
reverently, and thought he had never felt 
anything so soft, or seen anything so pretty, 
as the tress that clung round his releasing 
fingers. Felicia was far too intent on her 
work to talk much, but what she did say 
seemed to her companion so gracefully 
quaint, so simply complete in matter and 
manner, that he mused over it and her 
wonderingly, marvelling if all little girls of 
Felicia's age were as charming as Felicia. 

A voice from above the heads of the 
diligent gardeners interrupted his thoughts. 

" Good morning, Mr. Mason — is it not a 
lovely morning? Felicia, child, you have 
been out too long — you will be tired before 
the day is begun.'' 

The fellow-labourers looked up. Mrs. 
Southern and Mrs. Landon were leaning over 
the terrace-balustrade, looking down upon 

f2 



68 BOND AND FREE. 

them. Mrs. Southern's careworn and sun- 
burnt face, expressive chiefly of cheerful 
patience, and the delicate beauty of Mar- 
garet — whose eyes, Wilfred thought, as he 
glanced up, lighted her pale face with 
tenderly-veiled splendour, as stars light the 
sky on a clear and yet dewy summer night — 
were in strong contrast, and yet were 
brought into harmony by a look of heart- 
goodness common to them both. 

" Good morning, dear mamma — good morn- 
ing, sister Margaret ! " cried Felicia. ^' We 
must go in to breakfast now," she added to 
Wilfred, putting her hand into his. As they 
mounted the many steps to the terrace 
she asked confidentially : — 

"Do you think the angels are much 
more beautiful than my sister Margaret ? " 

After a momentary pause — a look, first at 
Mrs. Landon, standing above them, the sun 
shining upon her morning- dress of spotless 



BOND AND FREE, 69 

white, then into the questioning face of the 
fair child, Wilfred answered : — 

"I do not suppose we should feel the 
beauty of the angels as we feel the beauty 
of some human faces; they would not be 
more beautiful for us, perhaps, because we 
should not understand their beauty — they 
are too far from us/' 

" But are they very far from us ? " 

" Not from all of us — (^ Heaven lies about 
us in our infancy,' indeed). I only meant 
they are too different from most of us, for 
their beauty to touch us as human beauty 
does," 

By this time all the family, " except that 
lazy Herbert/' had assembled on the terrace ; 
and even as his mother was abusing his idle- 
ness he too appeared. 

Many plans for active enjoyment of the 
day were discussed during breakfast ; but 
they were all rejected on account of the great 



70 BOND AND FREE. 

heat of the weather. Some one, however, 
by-and-by proposed a quiet day, and then 
a row up the lake late in the afternoon, 
tea on one of the islands, and return by 
moonlight. This scheme met with general 
approbation. 

After breakfast the family loitered in the 
cool hall and porch awhile, then dropped off 
one by one, or two by two. Mrs. Southern 
carried off her son, John Landon followed 
Blanche into the garden, Mary went about 
the business of the house, Felicia ascended 
to the nursery to amuse the children while 
nurse was busy, Mrs. Landon took her 
work out-doors, Wilfred carrying her chair 
for her and placing it under the cedar; 
Mr. Landon, settled at his wife's feet, 
began to work intently at a boat he was 
making for his boy. Husband and wife both 
invited Wilfred to remain with them ; but he 
had made up his mind for a long ramble, 



BOND AND FREE. 71 

in spite of the heat. Pursuing the same 
path he had taken yesterday, he soon climbed 
high enough to get the benefit of a fresh 
breeze ; he had intended to gain the distant 
rocky peak, but it seemed to recede as he 
advanced — and before long he was glad 
to throw himself down beneath the shadow 
of a gray boulder and of an ash which 
grew out of it. 

The brightness of his morning-mood was 
already dimmed : — 

" So sind am hartsten wir gequalt : 
Im Eeichthum fuhlend was uns fehlt." 

Beauty, lavishly displayed, oppressed and 
stupefied him ; the desire of possession, de- 
sire that this beauty should fully enter 
into his being, arose to torment him by its 
futility, to make him conscious of dark- 
ness of soul and heaviness of spirit. 

The music of a little rivulet leaping from 
the rock close beside him, set itself to wea- 



72 BOND AND FREE. 

rily monotonous and melancholy words — 
clear and bright as the little stream looked, 
for him it would utter no others. 

"Found at last!" cried Southern's cheery 
voice, as he dropped down from the ash- 
tree, alighting close to Mason. 

" What a hunt I have had, and how hot 
I have made myself! How could you climb 
so high?" 

" ' Step by step, stone by stone, 
Strain by strain, groan by groan, 
The goal is gained, our powers are done, 
As loss we count that we have won ; 
Life's pleasant plains are out of sight, 
Before us frowns a higher height.' " 

'^ Which means that you think it was 
pleasanter below? This is not bad, how- 
ever." 

Herbert, stretching himself on the moss, 
looked up towards the overhanging ash 
with an expression of perfect content, 
which did not the least change as he 
said : — 



BOND AND FREE. 73 . 

" My mother has sternly kept me to 
the point all this time — the point having 
been the contemplation of an anything but 
satisfactory state of money-matters. My mo- 
ther is a capital woman of business, and 
there's need she should be ! " 

After a brief pause, he continued: — 
"A few of the thousands my father was 
swindled out of by a nameless rascal — 
nameless to me at least — would come by 
no means amiss to us now. I do not 
think I am very covetous or vindictive, 
but I am sometimes inclined to pour power- 
ful anathemas on that scoundrel's head. 
Heigho ! I wish I could find a royal road 
to fortune ! But, enough of my affairs. 
Will you be pleased to lift up a corner 
of the impenetrable veil that covers yours, 
and let me peep in and see something of 
your schemes for the future? Not if you 
do not wish," he added quickly, as, rising 



74^ BOND AND FREE. 

on his elbow to look at Wilfred, he no- 
ticed that he coloured at the question and 
appeared to hesitate to answer it. 

" You see, my position is so different 
from yours," Wilfred began apologetically 
— " I am alone ; whether I sink or swim 
does not much matter. I mean to try 
whether my brains and my pen will 
earn me bread enough to keep me from 
starving." 

The wise Herbert looked grave. 

" Did your guardian, such a practical 
man, and, I should have thought, a very 
obstinate man, consent to this? Did he 
leave you free ? " 

" He left me quite free." Wilfred 
slightly smiled as he answered ; he had 
reasons, and not bad ones, for preferring 
that Southern should remain ignorant of 
the exact nature of his freedom; he knew 
the impulsive generosity and unwearying 



BOND AND FREE. W 

kindness of his friend^s nature — knew how 
instantaneous would be the desire and how 
dogged the determination "to do something 
for Wilfred," should he have reason to 
think that Wilfred was friendless and almost 
without resources. Having resolved to go his 
own way unhelped and unheeded, Mason did 
not wish to have to battle against Herbert's 
resolution to aid and befriend him. 

" Quite free ! " Herbert echoed, thought- 
fully. 

" As I said before, I am alone — one by 
myself — my wants will be few — it will be a 
hard case if I cannot earn enough to live 
upon.'' 

" You lay much stress on your being 
alone — one by yourself — but do you expect 
to live alone always ? " 

Wilfred smiled slightly, fixing his soft eyes 
full on his friend. 

" There is no provoking cause to make 



76 BOND AND FREE. 

me look so far forward," he said. As he 
added, " It is hardly likely, hardly pos- 
sible, that I shall ever marry," all the light 
died out of his face. 

It was Southern's turn to colour — he did 
so vividly, as he answered : — 

" I won't pretend not to know what you 
mean ; but I understand my position better 
now than I did when I indulged in those 
boyish fancies. I must think of nothing 
but work for many years to come. To 
return to your scheme : if you need a bread- 
winning profession — is it good to take up 
authorship in that way ? Is not the time 
for living only to write books past ? I 
cannot help thinking that you would be 
happier leading a more active life. I do 
believe that no life is so happy as that 
in which each day necessitates the doing 
of a day's work — external, compulsory 
work." 



BOND AND FREE. 77 

As Wilfred maintained silence, Southern 
remarked : — 

" You don't deign me an answer ; perhaps 
I seem to you to be arrogantly talking of 
what I don't understand ? " 

*^I was thinking — what you say about 
living only to write books has no meaning 
for me. I don't think that any one should 
live for any outward result of work — living 
should be life's work. A man's aim (an 
author's especially) should be, what Goethe 
said his was, to improve himself, to sharpen 
his own faculties, to raise the standard of 
his own personality, and then to express 
only that which he recognized as good and 
true. What a man has produced should 
be merely the necessary result of what he 
was, before he pressed on to a higher stage, 
and only useful to others who have not reached 
that stage. If a man must consciously 
live for an object, let him find it within 



78 BOND AND FREE. 

himself— let it be his own culture and de- 
velopment towards perfection." Here Wilfred 
broke oflf with a laugh of self-scorn that 
did not say much for his belief in what 
he was somewhat dogmatically laying down 
as truth. 

'^I was going to say, 'so much for your 
study of the great German ' ; but I see 
you do not feel that what you say is true, 
or sufficient — what little belief you have in 
it you will lose in a few years. If a 
man^s heart is in the right place, and espe- 
cially if it is as gentle and single as yours 
is, such a theory as that of one's own de- 
velopment being a sufficient object to live 
for, will never be believed in practically. 
Yours is the last temperament to have any 
rest amid such dry bones ; you have a real 
hunger and thirst (repress it as you may) 
after human sympathy. God's purpose in 
our lives may be our development towards 



BOND AND FREE. 79 

perfection ; but I think we are presumptuous 
if we fancy that by consciously setting our- 
selves to grow great and perfect, constantly 
watching our own progress, we shall forward 
His end ; it seems to me that those who 
act in that way act like children who con- 
tinually dig up their plants to see what 
growth their roots have made." 

"But, recognizing God's purpose in our 
lives, ought we not to make it ours ? " 

"It seems to me that we cannot recog- 
nize God's purpose. His ways are not as 
our ways — they are wonderful and past our 
finding out. I merely said such might be 
God's purpose." 

" What would you lay down to be the 
safe and right aim of all lives ? Is not the 
Saint-Simonian theory, that a man should 
work for the happiness of others as a 
necessary condition of his own happiness, 
to the full as selfish in reality, though it 



80 BOND AND FREE. 

may not sound so, as Goethe's theory that 
each man should make his own fortune first, 
from which the happiness of others must 
follow?" 

" Suppose we say that a man should live 
towards God, keeping His perfection before 
the eyes of his soul, that he should live for 
his neighbours, keeping his heart open to the 
needs and sufferings of his kind, mightn't we 
hope that such a man's nature would both 
broaden and deepen continually ? " 

" As yours does, and always will ! " Mason 
exclaimed warmly ; " my mind's eye shows 
me a beautiful picture of what your life will 
be : you will be a true physician, for soul 
and body — healing the body consciously, you 
will unconsciously heal souls." 

" God grant your words may to some 
extent come true ! I know, Wilfred, that 
higher considerations than you choose to 
own have influenced your decision — if de- 



BOND AND FREE. 81 

cision it is — just as lower ones than you 
give me credit for influenced mine. Though 
I should like to grow rich, I do not ex- 
pect to be absorbed in the pursuit of for- 
tune, or to care for it for its own sake ; 
and though you may desire to grow famous, 
you will not give yourself up to the pur- 
suit of fame, or ." 

" Fame ! the pursuit of fame ! — if I were 
to set myself to pursue anything, it would 
be, not fame, but happiness. I do not care 
to be famous, but to be happy I have the 
most intense longing." 

"To pursue happiness would be a great 
mistake, you know ; when you fancy she 
is within reach, and open your arms to 
embrace her, the ' red mouse ' will jump 
but of her mouth — the story of Sir Ga- 
waine and the loathsome lady will be re- 
versed." 

" You are cruel. ^' 

VOL. I. G 



82 BOND AND FREE. 

^'Not at all — though you may not by 
seeking happiness find her, she will, God 
grant, find you. Now, let us speculate no 
further — I quite agree with Mephistopheles 
on this head,* and it is time we returned to 
the world again." 

" How very beautiful your sister, Mrs. 
Landon, is!" Wilfred remarked, apparently 
apropos of nothing — as he got up, with 
evident reluctance, and they began to de- 
scend the hill-side. " She reminds me, in 
expression, of an engraving I have seen of 
Dante's Beatrice, from a picture of Ary 
Scheffer's." 

" I felt sure you would admire her — 
Landon, too, is a thoroughly nice fellow 
when you come to know him. I hope you 
will see a good deal of them if you go 

* " Mat ein Kerl, der speculirt 
1st v?ie ein Thier, auf diirre Heide, 
Von einem bosen Geist im Kreis herum gefuhrt, 
Und rings umher liegt schone griine Weide." 



BOND AND FREE. 83 

to London, as you talked of doing. I 
suppose you do not mean to live quite 
'the world forgetting, by the world forgot.' 
I am sure you will need looking after. My 
mother says you are ruining your constitu- 
tion by studying at night ; she is certain, 
judging you by your appearance, that you 
make a habit of sitting up late — this will 
be inexcusable when you live alone, and can 
choose your own hours. I hope you be- 
lieve that power of mind soon decays 
where there is no physical power to back 
it." 

'* You are quite oppressively wise to-day, 
Southern!" Wilfred exclaimed. "If I were 
to say that I do not set a very high value 
on strength of body and length of years, 
you would of course be shocked ; you do 
not know anything of the soul-sickness which 
makes one cry against the burden of being, 
and desire death rather than life." 

g2 



84 BOND AND FREE. 

^^ I do know that only the exaggera- 
tions of a morbid and diseased imagina- 
tion can make any burdens laid upon us 
really unendurable; and that what you call 
soul-sickness is often only a consequence 
of physical weakness or disease. I do not 
fancy that you have been the perpetrator 
of any mysterious crime, and so have 
brought upon yourself a weight of mys- 
terious, life-long remorse ; therefore I should 
hope that, beyond the burdens borne by 
all flesh, no burdens are laid upon you but 
such as you may and should shake yourself 
free from." 

After those words of Southern's nothing 
passed between them as they went through 
the intense wavering heat, till, pausing a 
moment on the shady bridge, Herbert 
offered his hand to Wilfred — it was grasped 
cordially. 

"• None but our own deeds shall affect 



BOND AND FREE. 85 

our friendship/^ Southern said ; '^ and I 

trust that those deeds will only tend to 
strengthen it/' 



86 



CHAPTER V. 

" Only a child- 
Heaven's light yet Hng'ring, lost amid her hair, 
Shining serenely forth from mild eyes fair ; 

Taking my Fate into her hand she smiled — 
That smile was a meek woman's, glad and sad, 
Sad from sweet sympathy, to serve me glad." 

Late that night Wilfred entered his room, and, 
dropping into a chair, yielded himself up 
to dreamy meditation. 

He recalled the scenes, sounds, and sensa- 
tions of the evening — the fairy island on 
the enchanted lake, in which were mirrored 
the delectable mountains; the water-lilies, 
tinged with fire by the sunset and then 



BOND AND FREE. 87 

blanched again by the moon-beams; Mar- 
garet Landon's Beatrice-like face uplifted 
to the light as she sang; other happy and 
lovely faces ; sweet songs, sweet silences, and 
clear ringing laughter ; the measured splash- 
ing of the oars and the dancing fall of 
sparkling showers of foam pearls. These 
things and many more mingled confusedly. 
Distinct from all of them he recalled the 
feeling that had stolen over him when a 
tired child's head had drooped upon his 
shoulder and rested there, when his arm had 
encircled a slight, soft form. Holding 
Felicia thus, Wilfred had trembled with 
positive happiness, for he knew that this 
child loved him. 

The events of the day had excited Wil- 
fred — sleep did not seem a possibility. As 
he opened his note-book, wishing to write 
some few lines that might in years to come 
recall this time, the inevitable packet fell 



88 BOND AND FREE. 

from it. Immediately the current of his 
thoughts was changed and chilled. His 
eyes took a fiercely hungry look as they 
remained fixed on the letter. To-night he 
was not patient, or submissive. 

" Intolerable ! '^ he murmured. ^^ Where- 
ever I go, whatever I do, am I to be 
haunted and taunted by my ignorance of a 
mystery which only this shred of paper, 
this blotch of wax, holds from me. What 
if I dare the worst and at once tear out 
the heart of this hateful secret? Tear out 
its heart ! " 

He echoed his own words shudderingly, 
and rose from the table; it seemed to his 
excited fancy as if he had spoken of tearing 
out his mother's heart. As he walked up 
and down the room he cried — "Mother! 
mother! release me from this intolerable 
restraint. A curse is on me, turning to ray 
torment what you did in love ! Appear to 



BOND AND FREE. 89 

me, or by some dream or sign release 
me!" 

Again he gazed at the innocent -looking 
packet lying on his table — again and again 
he reperused the faded writing of those (as 
he called them) fatal lines. 

By a train of sophistries, by passionate 
exaggeration of the misery of ignorance and 
the evil influence of vague dread, he might, 
perhaps, have brought himself to disregard 
alike his mothers entreaty and her com- 
mand, had not a slight sound startled him 
from this commune with a familiar demon. 
He listened ; some one knocked softly at his 
door. Looking at his watch, Wilfred found 
that it was nearly two o'clock ; the knock 
was repeated a third time, and then, full 
of vague and ghostly expectation, he threw 
the door open wide. 

The child Felicia, covered from head to 
foot with a white shawl, stood outside; her 



90 BOND AND FREE. 

hair, which had been uncurled by the night 
dew, drooped heavily on her shoulders — ^her 
little feet shone bare and white on the dark 
boards ; she was very pale, and the eyes she 
lifted to Wilfred's wondering face were full 
of timid solicitude. 

He did not speak directly, and, unlike a 
child, she waited to be questioned; so there 
was a momentary silence. 

'^ Is anything the matter, Felicia ? How 
is it you are not asleep? You were so 
tired," Wilfred said. 

" I could not sleep. I felt very unhappy 
about you." 

" About me — you dear child ? " 

"Mamma said the other day that you 
would kill yourself by studying at night ; 
from my window I can see the light in 
yours. I know it is hours and hours since 
we came home, so I thought about your 
killing yourself, and I thought that perhaps 



BOND AND FREE. 91 

if I asked you you would go to bed." She 
raised eyes full of soft appeal to his. 

"You kind little thing!" Wilfred ex- 
claimed. "The light shall be put out before 
you can get back to your room, and I 
will behave better now that I know that a 
kind little friend watches me." 

"Thank you, Mr. Mason." She had 
bidden him good night, and was closing the 
door behind her, when a sudden impulse 
made Wilfred recall her. 

"Will you come back for a moment, 
Felicia? I will not keep you long." 

She complied, with gentle wonder in her 
face. He set a chair for her, and wrapped 
his coat round her bare feet; then, taking 
up the packet, he said : — 

"I am afraid of being tempted to do 
what would be wrong, Felicia, and you 
could prevent me — will you ? " 

" Oh, yes ! if you will tell me how." 



92 BOND AND FREE. 

"My mother, who died when I was very 
young, left this letter for me, but I may 
not open it till another person is dead. 
Now, I would cut off my right arm to 
know what this letter tells me, and I am 
afraid of being tempted to open it before 
I ought. I want you, Felicia, to keep the 
letter and save me from temptation." 

Wilfred's colour rose and deepened as 
the child's clear eyes perused his face, 
while she seemed to hesitate. 

"Perhaps you think me cowardly, un- 
manly — think I ought to trust myself, and to 
overcome instead of escaping from tempta- 
tion ? '' Unconsciously, he no longer spoke 
as if to a child. 

" We pray not to be led into temptation." 

"We do, dear; you will keep me out of 
it? — you will take my letter and save me 
from this danger? — you will be my little 
guardian angel ? " 



BOND AND FREE. 93 

"If mamma does not mind, I will take 
care of it," she said, and let him close her 
fingers over it. 

** You are my conscience now, dear. (A 
pure and fair conscience I have !) May I 
kiss your hand upon our compact ? " 

The child held up her pale little face to 
his, but he stooped lower and kissed her 
hand, the hand that held the letter. She 
took the kiss sedately, then, looking at him 
with a face from which shone a woman^s sym- 
pathy and a child's simplicity, she asked, 

" Are you always sad ? Is it because 
your mother is dead, and you have no bro- 
thers and sisters ? " Tears began to drop 
from the serene eyes. 

Again kissing her hand, Wilfred said, 

" You must not cry for me, my darling." 
His heart was startled by the sound of that 
word of endearment which his lips had pro- 
bably never spoken before. " I shall be happier 



94 BOND AND FREE. 

now that my fate is in this kind little hand," 
he added. 

Holding the letter firmly, Felicia slipped 
down from her chair. 

'' Those poor little hare feet ! " Wilfred 
looked despairingly at his own boots and 
slippers as he spoke, then added, 

"You must let me carry you back again 
—may I?" 

" If you please, if I am not too heavy. 
I wasn't frightened coming ; but I think I 
might be going back,'' she said. He 
lifted her up in his arms, and she clasped 
her hands round his neck confidingly. 

Her room was a long way off, in an 
opposite corner of the house ; as he set her 
down at the door she pointed out, she 
thanked him in a cautiously subdued voice. 
Having seen the door closed behind her, 
he returned to his room with a happy hushed 
feeling at his heart, "as if he had been 



BOND AND FREE. 95 

visited by an angel," he told himself. 
His first act was to put out the light — his 
next to kneel and pray. 

" I may keep it — it is locked up in a 
box of mine, and the box is put in my 
own desk, which mamma takes care of till 
I am older." 

Felicia told Wilfred this, directly she met 
him next morning; afterwards she did not 
allude to the matter. No one but Mrs. 
Southern, Wilfred, and the child knew of 
the incident of that summer night till long 
afterwards. 

Felicia seemed languid, and looked paler 
than her wont all the next day. Wilfred 
watched her and waited on her with 
a chivalrous tenderness of devotion that 
brought a smile to the lips, and tears to the 
eyes of the observant Margaret. 



96 



CHAPTER VI. 

*' O Menschenlierz, was ist dein GlUck ? 
Ein rathselhaft geborner, 
Und, kaum gegriisst, verlorner, 
Unwiederholter Angenblick ? " 

Varied by all manner of excursions, by land, 
water, hill, and valley, the weeks of sum- 
mer and holiday flew swiftly. Wilfred be- 
came a universal favourite ; he was no longer 
the melancholy boy, seeming half-shy, half- 
proud, to whom Southern had first been 
attracted more by compassion than liking. 
His nature had developed rapidly in the 
sunshine of a congenial atmosphere ; as he 



BOND AND FREE. 97 

became more and more gay and uncon- 
strained, it seemed to bud with fresh charms 
and graces each day. Wilfred was not 
naturally shy ; but being at once intensely ob- 
servant, and very ill at ease, while — ignorant 
of the characters, tastes, and sympathies of 
those around him — the air he breathed was, 
as it were, foreign to his nature, he was apt 
to become wholly absorbed in watching 
others, and to forget that he, too, had a part 
to play. It was not, therefore, till he had 
been some time among the Southerns 
that his part was played with ease and 
grace. 

Holiday life at Beech Holmes was utterly 
different from any life he had ever known or 
dreamed of He had hardly opened a book 
during his stay there; his idleness had been 
complete, and he was inclined to think cul- 
pable ; yet at no period had his mental 
growth been so rapid — his whole nature had 

VOL. I. H 



98 BOND AND FREE. 

been richly nourished by the contemplation of 
forms of animate and inanimate beauty at 
once more real and more spiritual than those 
with which his imagination had teemed. These 
months were, perhaps, the most of all valuable 
to him, in that they freed him from the 
thraldom of a habit of incessant and pur- 
poseless study, taught him the possibility of 
living without books, and plunged him com- 
pletely into so pure a " vagabondism of sen- 
sation." 

A lovely evening, coming after some 
days of wild, prematurely autumnal weather, 
was the last Wilfred was to spend at Beech 
Holmes. A shade of melancholy tinged the 
mood of almost all the party. Other depar- 
tures were impending; the holiday summer 
life was drawing to an end. 

" When moonlight stole o'er the tints of 
eve," everybody assembled on the terrace ; 
wonderful quiet reigned as they watched the 



BOND AND FKEE. ' 99 

moon resting upon, and then slowly lifting 
herself up from, the heavy, dusky branches 
of the cedar. 

John Landon was at Beech Holmes again; 
he, too, planned to leave it to-morrow; but 
the air — timid, assured, proud, and bashful 
— with which Blanche Southern hung upon 
his arm, indicated that their parting would 
not be a long one. 

Mrs. Southern was the centre of this ter- 
race group. Felicia, while she leant her 
cheek against her mother, let Wilfred^s hand 
clasp hers ; perhaps she, the youngest, was 
the saddest of the party — she looked as 
sad as the serenity of her lovely eyes would 
let her. She, better than anyone else, knew 
how Wilfred's heart ached at the thought of 
to-morrow's parting, and how desolate and 
lonely a life that parting would begin for 
him. She bore her grief and his, for she 
pitied him with that pity of love which 

h2 



100 BOND AND FREE. 

makes the grief of the one loved one's 
own grief. 

When they went indoors Mrs. Southern 
begged Wilfred to come with her for a few 
moments to her den, as she called a little 
room which had been the steward's room 
in the long-past days of Beech Holmes 
grandeur. 

After kind enquiries into his plans and 
motherly cautions concerning his health, 
Mrs. Southern asked if he seriously and 
earnestly desired that the packet he had 
confided to her little daughter should con- 
tinue in the child's keeping. 

** I have felt happier ever since it passed 
into her hands — pray let her keep it," was 
his eager answer. 

'^ It is safe with her. We call her, dear 
child, Faith, Hope, Charity, and Constancy, 
by turns — and do not know which name 
suits her best. It is quite safe with her; 



BOND AND FREE. 101 

but yet I would rather that the letter 
were in your own hands." 

Wilfred's eyes shone on the mother as 
she spoke thus of her child ; but he did 
not strive to say a word in Felicia's 
praise — to him the child seemed to stand 
above all praise ; he only said : — 

"Pray let Felicia keep it." 

" For the present, then. I shall hope that 
you will soon come and see us again, and 
that you may then feel inclined to re- 
lieve her of her charge. But suppose by 
any mischance that we should lose sight 
of each other — you may leave England, 
or we may be obliged to leave Beech 
Holmes ." 

" The letter is not to be opened while 
Mr. Ireton, my late guardian, lives : he is 
not an old man, and is, I should think, a 
very strong one. The time for opening the 
letter may never come ; if I die and have 



102 BOND AND FREE. 

not claimed it, I suppose it had better be 
burnt unread.'' 

" I do not know if I have ever told you 
that your guardian is not quite a stranger 
to me; many years ago — more than twenty 
— my husband had a great deal of busi- 
ness intercourse with him. I used to hear 
his name constantly. I saw him once or 
twice." 

** You know him ! — you knew him many 
years ago?" The old expression of wild 
and painful eagerness distorted Wilfred's 
face. Controlling himself by a great effort, 
he asked: — 

^^ Do you know anything of his past 
life? Anything of his former friends or 
enemies ? " 

" Very little. When he was a compara- 
tively young man, and had just succeeded 
to his father's business, he took into his 
employ the son of an old friend, placing 



BOND AND FREE. 103 

him in a confidential position. I do not 
know anything of details ; but the young 
man turned out very badly — he ruined your 
guardian, and others were involved with 
him. Mr. Ireton was a proud man- 
proud, above all, of an inherited, unspotted 
business reputation ; this did not escape. 
He had some motive for wishing, as far 
as possible, to screen the real transgressor. 
Malice suggested an evil motive — scandal 
was, I believe, busy with every incident of 
his life. I know that my husband con- 
sidered his personal probity as unsullied, 
but he could not induce others to share 
his conviction. Mr Ireton must have led 
a life of unflinching toil to have recovered 
his position, so far as he has done. I never 
knew much of him ; my husband was 
in weak health for many years pre- 
vious to his death, and led a very quiet 
retired life ; it must have been more than 



104 BOND AND FREE. 



twenty years since I had heard your guar- 
dian's name when I heard it from Herbert, 
in connection with you.'' 

" Do you by any chance remember what 
scandal said about my guardian's reasons 
for wishing to screen his enemy? Some 
little truth, or some clue to the truth, 
might be sifted out from among false- 
hoods. Do you remember his enemy's 
name? Was any woman's name mixed up 
in the matter ? " 

** I do not suppose I ever knew — I do 
not even remember hearing the culprit's 
name ; whether any woman's name was 
mixed up in the matter I have no idea. I 
had many young children to nurse and tend, 
and little time or interest to spare. My 
husband knew everything; but he burnt all 
the papers and letters that touched on 
affairs of that period — at Mr. Ireton's 
express wish, I imagine," 



BOND AND FREE. 105 

^* Truly, I suffer a Tantalus torture ! — the 
knowledge I desire perpetually evades my 
reach by a hair's breadth only — shall I never 
grasp it ? " 

Wilfred spoke with passionate impatience; 
and then, bending his head down upon the 
hands that had been clenched in eager 
expectation, groaned aloud. 

For a few minutes Mrs. Southern re- 
garded him with silent pity; then, laying 
her hand upon his shoulder, she said : — 

" Dear Wilfred, will you take plain 
speaking as a sign of affection?" 

He raised his head, but, even as he 
begged her to speak plainly, it was easy 
to see that he shrank from her, as if 
expecting to be wounded. 

" I always think," Mrs. Southern began 
gently, ^Hhat a man, whose position or cir- 
cumstances naturally excite pity, should be 
peculiarly careful that his character and 



106 BOND AND FREE. 

conduct shall command respect. A man 
whose position and whose character alike 
call for our pity, is in danger of receiving 
it mixed with contempt — is in danger of 
being despised. If there is anything in 
your circumstances for which you are to 
be commiserated, it seems to me that it is 
the more needful that by force of will you 
should overcome any inclination to self-pity, 
and, by showing self-respect, should make 
others respect you. Leave the past alone, 
dear boy, and occupy yourself with the 
present — with the correction of your faults. 
You have so many qualities which can and 
will elicit admiration, that it appears to 
me to be of the greatest importance that 
you should cultivate others of which nature 
or education has left you deficient. A 
young man whose gifts cause him to be 
sought after and flattered, and who is de- 
ficient in self-respecting self-restraint, in 



BOND AND FREE. 107 

steadfastness of purpose, and in power of 
will, is peculiarly exposed to many and dan- 
gerous temptations — apt to be a plaything 
in some hands, and an instrument of evil in 
others. I hope you will feel, Wilfred, that 
it is because I have something of a mother's 
love for you that I presume to lecture you." 

Mrs. Southern held out her hand as she 
finished speaking. Wilfred grasped it with 
a grateful look, but, as he did so, said 
despondingly : — 

*^ It seems as if everyone I know had 
leagued together to exhort me to use 
what I do not possess — to be strong where 
it is my nature to be weak." 

" But the only source of true strength is 
open and common to all." 

" That may be, but all have not the 
needful vessel for drawing the waters." 

" That indeed have they, as they find 
when the time of real thirst comes." 



108 BOND AND FREE. 

" Mother ! " exclaimed Herbert, entering 
and dragging Felicia after him, " when 
are you going to release Wilfred ? A lady- 
is anxious for the setting free of her 
knight." 

" You are jealous Herbert, I see — and 
you put your own jealous impatience upon 
your little sister's shoulders; however, I 
won't detain dear Wilfred any longer." 

So saying, Mrs. Southern rose and led 
the way into the drawing-room. 

The terrace commanded, for a consider- 
able distance, the road by which the coach 
for Silverthorpe must come; here they all 
assembled next morning, and as they 
watched for its appearance everybody 
seemed to strive who could say the kindest 
things to the departing guest. 

Mr. and Mrs. Landon pressed for a pro- 
mise that he would often visit them in 



BOND AND FREE. 109 

town, to which they meant to return very 
soon — Mr. Landon's present business at 
Beech Holmes being to fetch his wife and 
children home. 

" The children will be so glad to see 
you ; and papas and mammas always make 
those welcome whom the children love — eh! 
mamma ? " Mr. Landon turned to Mrs. 
Southern, after glancing at John and 
Blanche. 

** Even when they have learnt that the 
welcome will be repaid by theft. Such is 
our fate, Margaret — you will be overtaken 
by the doom some day ; your Lily is a 
coquette by birth, and very precocious. As 
for me, I shall be left alone in time.^' 

^^ Indeed, mamma, I will never leave you — 
I will not indeed, mamma," the child 
Felicia said, clinging round her. 

"You will be last to leave me, no doubt." 

"I will never leave you — never, never! 



110 BOND AND FREE. 

Don't say I will — you hurt me; I will always 
stay with you, mamma/' 

The childish face was full of serious pur- 
pose, and the eyes brimful of tears. 

Mrs. Southern stroked the fair young 
head soothingly, but her smile, though 
tender, was incredulous. 

Felicia felt it to be so. She looked up at 
Wilfred with a pained, pleading look, as if 
to ask that he, at least, would believe in 
her constancy. He stooped and whispered 
something in her ear which made her 
brighten up a little. 

The coach came in sight, and they all 
trooped down the avenue. Perhaps the 
great Beeches there, being so old, that the 
sap circulated in them feebly and imper- 
fectly, were an easy prey to the early 
frosts, and unable to bear the boister- 
ousness of the autumn wind ; for already 
the wide road beneath them was strewn 



BOND AND FREE. Ill 

with crisp, yellow leaves and broken twigs ; 
while many decayed branches, which had been 
concealed by the luxuriant foliage of more 
vigorous neighbours, now stretched them- 
selves forth, bare and gaunt, serving as 
death's-head at the royal festival of gor- 
geous autumnal pomp of colouring. 

" Try and think of this place as a home, 
as long as we remain here, and of me as 
almost a mother,'^ were Mrs. Southern's 
final words to Wilfred. 

At the last moment Felicia placed a 
small bunch of autumn violets in her friend's 
hand. She said '^good-by," quietly, quietly 
lifting up her mouth for his farewell kiss ; 
but when the coach was out of sight she 
turned her face from the light, hid it in 
her mother's gown, and kept it hidden a 
long time. 

Herbert went a stage with his friend. 
Both the young men were silent for a good 



112 BOND AND FREE. 

while. Wilfred looked back till the top ot 
the tallest chimney, and then the hill which 
sheltered Beech Holmes, had disappeared. 

" That is over ! " he said then, drawing 
a long breath. 

" What an exclamation ! " 

''It is like waking from a delicious 
dream ; even when I said ' good-by ^ I did 
not believe I was really going." 

'^ You must soon be there again ; with or 
without me you will always be welcome.'' 

^' I do not feel as if there were a possi- 
bility of anything in my life being like this 
visit — which is over. I suppose I have 
been happy ; but I don't know much about 
it. The *me' I have been conscious of at 
Beech Holmes is unlike any ' me ' I have 
known before. Consciousness of individu- 
ality is a strange and perplexing mystery." 
" Spare me ! " Herbert said, laughing. 
*' Do not laugh. Southern, I cannot to- 



BOND AND FREE. 113 

day. I feel that I am about to resume 
a burden that will press more grievously 
than ever. If I could only see in the far 
distance some certain time when I might 
throw off this burden — when there would 
be a probability, even a possibility, for 
me of such happiness as my heart craves 
hungrily, I could bear on cheerfully ; but 
the future looks such a dismal blank. 
Life looks so wearily long, so unbrokenly 
dreary ! " 

" Work, work, work ! Work is the one 
unfailing panacea for human ills. Don't 
look forward with craving — let good for- 
tune take you by surprise ! '' 

^^I think a man in your position can 
hardly realize what my position is. I want 
something external to myself to live for — 
in spite of what I tried to make you 
believe that I believed, some months ago. 
Vague philanthropic cant about living for 

VOL. I. I 



114 BOND AND FREE. 

one's kind, one^s age and generation, won't 
satisfy me. I do not believe that one can 
live for one's kind, except by living for 
individuals." 

^' Right womanishly felt and spoken. Miss 
Mason ! " Herbert exclaimed ; then he added 
quickly — " I believe I should never have 
taken to you as I did, but for that some- 
thing womanish which I often feel in you. 
I have always been used to womankind, 
and you seemed a nearer approach to a 
woman than anyone else near me." 

"Mr. Ireton called me womanly — woman- 
ish, he meant it for a severe reproach. I felt 
it to be so — do you, too, mean a reproach 
when you call me womanish?" 

Herbert did not answer immediately. 
" I certainly did not then mean the word 
as a term of reproach," he said, after a 
pause; "but I stopped to consider if I had 
unconsciously implied a reproach. It seems 



BOND AND FREE. 115 

to me that to call a man womanish may 
be to confer the highest praise, or the most 
severe censure. I fancy your womanishness 
is of a mixed nature ; but I don't feel any 
'cair to preach to you. Time will show 
what stuff you are made of — at Beech 
Holmes, at all events, you will always have 
judges more sympathetic than critical — for 
Felicia, you are already a hero of romance." 

" The friendship of your family will be 
my greatest stimulus and safeguard; the 
name they know me by will, I hope, win 
some honour. I must try and forget that 
it is not my name — that some day I may 
have to give it up, to take a sullied and 
disgraced name in its stead." 

" To make that, too, in time an honoured 
name ! Would not that be doing something 
noble, something worth doing ? " 

" It would be too much for me to do ; 
I am afraid the disgraced name might 

i2 



116 BOND AND FREE. 

crush me down beneath it, instead of being 
raised and purified by me.'' 

" It would not — it ought not — it must 
not ; one day you will be both good and 
great — you will justify our love. Accept 
that as my parting prophecy — you will not 
grow weak and miserable, but good and 
great/' 



117 



CHAPTER YIL 

" Ich weiss das mir mclits angehort; 
Aus der Gedanke, der ungestort 

Aus meiner Seele will fliesen 
Und jeder gunstige Augenblick, 
Den mich ein liebendes Gescbick 

Von Grund aus lasst geniessen." 

After the country freshness and refined 
elegance of everything at Beech Holmes the 
stifling atmosphere and mean ugliness of a 
cheap London lodging seemed dreadful to 
Wilfred, almost intolerable. Walking up and 
down his two rooms, late on the night of 
his arrival, he asked himself — 

"What vague, wild, absurd superstition 



118 BOND AND FREE. 

could have brought me to this crowded 
wilderness ? " 

Thoroughly harassed and heart-sick, 
irritated almost beyond endurance by the 
ceaseless roar and rattle in the street be- 
neath, the only sedative he could discover 
was the determination to rise early next 
day, and either seek another lodging, or al- 
together fly from London. 

That, instead of doing either, he occupied 
those two dingy rooms for very many 
months was doubly characteristic — charac- 
teristic of his easily changed resolution ; cha- 
racteristic, too, in the cause of the change. 

He rang for his landlady next morning, 
intending to tell her that he should not re- 
main with her. 

The night before he had only seen a 
slatternly servant ; when the mistress came, 
she was not much, less slatternly — but she 
was a mild-eyed, soft- voiced, dejected-looking 



BOND AND FREE. 119 

woman, and clinging shyly to her apron was 
a fair-haired child, in whom Wilfred found, 
or fancied, some likeness to Felicia. This 
fancied likeness, together with the mother's 
gentle dejection, vanquished him — he signified 
a wish for breakfast, expressed himself po- 
litely about the accommodation, made some 
overtures of friendship to little Jane, and did 
not say one word about changing his quarters. 
When he had received and arranged his 
books and pictures his rooms looked habit- 
able ; by degrees he ceased to notice the 
dingy tastelessness which had, at first, so 
much shocked him. Becoming a favourite of 
little Jane's, Wilfred was favoured by her mo- 
ther. Jane was often allowed to answer his 
bell. Always receiving a kind and gentle 
welcome to his room she was not ungrate- 
ful; when she went with her mother to the 
green-grocer's, or to the market, she some- 
times begged, sometimes bought, a few flowers 



120 BOND AND FREE. 

— these she always arranged in a glass of 
water and placed on Wilfred's table. 

As upon a new world Wilfred 
launched himself upon the London streets ; 
he felt a pleasing excitement in taking 
his solitary and meditative way, un- 
known and unnoticed, among myriads of his 
fellow-creatures — nursing the while an unde- 
fined, half-sad, half-triumphant consciousness 
of the possession of powers that might one 
day claim for him the sympathy and admi- 
ration of thousands. While the novelty 
lasted, the greater part of his time was 
spent in the streets; having, by over-use, 
worn out this pleasure, he shut himself into 
his room and strove to continue a course 
of study which the visit to Beech Holmes 
had broken off. 

At this time Wilfred's scheme was 
to earn the small sum on which he 
thought he could subsist by giving clas- 



BOND AND FREE. 121 

sical lessons in any two or three families to 
which he could obtain introductions — post- 
poning, for a 'few years, the gratification of 
other and more ambitious hopes. It was 
with dismay that he found the concentra- 
tion of mind necessary for study become 
difficult, if not impossible — that he found 
himself continually falling into reveries, 
dwelling intently upon the most trivial de- 
tails of the last few months. Sometimes an 
hour would pass while his fiugers lingered 
between the same pages of a Lexicon, and 
his eyes and thoughts were alike withdrawn 
from it. Rousing himself from these day- 
dreamings he was conscious of the intense 
craving, both of heart and brain, for that 
beauty and poetry of life of which his pre- 
sent seemed barren ; conscious also of infinite 
and indefinite effort, that was not wholly 
painful, to seize and hold the fleeting phan- 
toms of imagination. 



122 BOND AND FREE. 

The evenings of such idle days brought 
remorse for wasted hours, despair at the 
lost mastery of mind. He knew that the 
distractions which made waste of his life 
came from within, not from without, for he 
was accustomed to the noise of the street 
now, and did not even hear it. The young 
student generally enjoys a glorious indepen- 
dence, through his power of absorption and 
abstraction ; it is not till over-work has made 
the brain irritable, or forced work has made 
it unhealthy, that outward things tyrannize 
over it. 

Wilfred stood by the window one even- 
ing, pondering — asking himself what was to 
be done to lay the disconnected thoughts 
and fancies which grew and multiplied ; which, 
while they made former pursuits laborious 
and distasteful, appeared too airy and too 
fragmentary to be captured and formed 
into a palpable whole! 



BOND AND FREE. 123 

The room was already dusky, when a 
little white face appeared at the door. 

"May I stand at your window and see 
the lamp-lighter go down the street ? ^' was 
Jane's request. 

"Yes, come in, dear." 

Jane watched, standing on a chair with 
Wilfred's arm round her, till all the lamps 
in sight were kindled and the light of 
the one opposite shone into the room ; 
then she turned to Wilfred with the ques- 
tion : — 

"Who lights up all the stars?" 

The child was a very ignorant child, as 
Wilfred found when he tried to explain 
scientifically how the stars were lighted up. 
The idea of giving her some simple and 
regular instruction crossed his mind — the 
time came when he reproached himself with 
not having done so. 

" God lights them up, doesn't he ? " Jane 



124 BOND AND FREE. 

asked, at the end of his little lecture, to 
which she had listened patiently. 

He thought that there was beauty in 
the obstinate simplicity of this remark — told 
himself that a child's instinct was more sure 
than a man's knowledge — and dismissed the 
thought of teaching this child. If Jane had 
shown him the picture in her mind, of 
God as a lamp-lighter, gigantic, and with a 
gigantic ladder, he might have doubted the 
beauty of even a gentle child's ignorance, 
and the spirituality of its instincts. 

"Isn't it bad to be here, all alone?" 
Jane asked next, turning from the bustling 
street to the dim room, not without some 
fear in her eyes. 

''I am always glad when my little friend 
comes in to see me." 

" Mother will not always let me come 
when I want to come — she says it will 
trouble you. You are always writing — 



BOND AND FREE. 125 

writing, or reading hard books, she says. 
Do you ever write pretty stories? There 
was a gentleman here once who did — I 
couldn't read them, but mother said they 
were pretty; but he soon went away. 
Mother says he got a great deal of money 
and went to a grander house; but he 
wasn't nice, as you are; I never wanted to 
come in here then, he used to get in such 
a passion if Susan made any noise. Do 
you ever write pretty stories ? '' 

Wilfred answered in the negative, and 
just then a voice called Jane ; she asked 
her friend to go down the stairs with her, 
because they were dark, and he complied. 
Eeturned to his dim room Wilfred found 
himself thinking of ^^the gentleman who wrote 
pretty stories " — questioning whether he 
might not do something in that way with 
his swarming fancies. He walked up and 
down his room till candles and his frugal 



126 BOND AND FREE. 

tea were brought him. After tea that 
walking up and down was resumed. By- 
and-by he sat down and began to write. 
Goethe's boyish romances, which were 
numerous, were generally written in the 
form of letters,* as was '^Werther" later. 
Wilfred's first attempt at prose fiction was 
begun in the same form ; for many hours 
he wrote rapidly and unweariedly, memory 
and imagination working harmoniously, re- 
producing familiar scenes and forms of beauty 
in imaginary relations to themselves and to 
each other. As he proceeded a feverish haste 
possessed him — a dread lest any part of 
the fair thought -pageant should sweep by 
unnoted. 

He was well-nigh outwearied, and the 
morning was not far ofi*, when, the flicker- 
ing of the expiring candles making it im- 

* " Denn ich pflegte einen kleinen Roman zum Grunde zu 
legen, den ich in Brief en auszufUhren liebte." — Wahrheit 
und Dichtung. 



BOND AND FREE. 127 

possible to write longer, he looked up, pushed 
back the hair from his heated brow, and 
exclaimed : — 

"This will be happiness — this life within 
life ! — this freedom of imagination ! Surely I 
have found an unfailing source of happiness. 
I certainly am happy ! '^ 

The scene of this " happiness " was cheer- 
less enough ; the air was raw and murky, the 
fire had been out many hours, and there was 
nothing cheering in the smoky, flaring candle- 
light. He who was "happy'' shook with 
cold and agitation — his brain burned, and his 
limbs were stiff and benumbed. 

What matter ? This was his first taste of 
the delight of that " drunkenness of composi- 
tion,''* in which all individuality of sensa- 
tion is lost ; he was only conscious of joy 
in his work and of longing for thrifty rest, 
after which he might resume it. Pain does not 

* M, Balzac. 



128 BOND AND FREE. 

always follow close upon pleasant excess. 
The young literary roue does not learn at 
once that excess in this, as in all other 
indulgence, defeats itself, and turns the 
cup of joy into bitterness : — that the over- 
worked brain acts upon the body, which 
then re-acts upon the brain, inducing that 
stupor of non-productiveness so bitterly 
humiliating to the artist, is a lesson not 
learnt from the first sin of excess. 

Wilfred woke, feeling somewhat languid, 
but eager to resume his work. For many 
days he wrote well nigh incessantly : except 
that late in the wintry afternoons, when 
daylight failed, he generally took a rapid 
walk through the streets, he allowed him- 
self no recreation. A sunset burning away 
in dingy fire, seen through the smoke of 
many chimneys ; a young moon, striving 
to assert her fairness in spite of mists, 
both of earth and heaven ; stars shining 



BOND AND FREE. 129 

down pure and serene through the haze of 
crime and misery hanging over the great 
city ; long vistas of lamps, kindling one by 
one, through invisible agency ; the vast pro- 
portions of the temples, both of God and 
Mammon, seen looming through the fogs : — 
at that time these common sights excited 
Wilfred's fancy more, and stirred more emo- 
tion within him, than, later in life, could 
the snow-covered mountains and blue lakes 
of Switzerland, the awful cascades and solemn 
forests of Norway, or any forms of the most 
perfect beauty, or most utter desolation of 
nature. 

During this fever of production, wild and 
shadowy tales — in which his imagination 
worked upon the mystery and dread in 
which he enveloped his ignorance of facts 
concerning his birth and parentage — incom- 
plete poems, and half thought-out essays, 
were thrown off one after the other — left 

VOL. I. K 



130 BOND AND FREE. 

behind for something new, the scribbler 
pressing on as breathlessly as aimlessly. 

On Christmas-eve the bells were ringing 
an unheeded refrain to Wilfred's thoughts, 
when little Jane brought him a note ; it 
contained a few lines from Mrs. Landon, to 
remind him that he had promised long ago 
to spend Christmas-day at her house. 

" When is Christmas-day, Jane ? '' Wil- 
fred asked of the child, who lingered in the 
room as usual. 

" Why, to-morrow ! — don't you know ? 
Mother has bought me a beautiful doll, but 
I must not play with it till after church- 
time to-morrow. There are such pretty 
things in the shops — I want to go out 
again and see them ; but mother is too 
busy." 

Wilfred pushed his papers into a drawer, 
sighing while he did so. As an interrup- 
tion to work the festival was not welcome, 



BOND AND FREE. 131 

and he had no glad or gay associations with 
the time. Looking at the child beside him, 
he detected a wistful expression in the eyes 
fixed on his face ; reading it aright, he told 
her to run and ask her mother if she might 
go out with him. 

" I know I may," was the joyous answer. 
And the changed aspect of the pale little 
face did Wilfred good; making him con- 
scious that he was not so isolated but that 
he had power to give pleasure, it made him 
feel less out of harmony with the season. 

Jane soon returned, looking very pretty 
in the blue silk bonnet and white furs, of 
which she challenged Wilfred^s admiration. 
As they set out together he felt quite 
proud of his companion ; he obeyed all her 
wishes, listened — really listened — to all her 
prattle, and bought her more sweet and 
pretty things than she had had given her 
before " in all her Christmases put to- 

e2 



132 BOND AND FREE. 

gether." Not being without some natural 
delicacy of perception, the child at length 
ceased to express her admiration of the things 
she saw, lest Mr. Mason should fancy that 
she wished to possess them. Thinking she 
was tired, and, as the night was cold and 
she had a bad cough, not liking to keep 
her out long, he took her home. 

Escaping from the mother's low-spirited 
and abject expressions of gratitude, he went 
out again for a solitary prowl about the 
streets. The sound of music drew him into 
a Roman Catholic chapel, where he narrowly 
escaped passing the night — for, having bowed 
his head down, to shut out everything ex- 
ternal while he gave himself up to the en- 
joyment of sounds which thrilled through 
his heart and brain, as the music died into 
silence he fell asleep. 

•?t ^ ^ Jyp ^ Cjp 

There was only a family-party at Mr. 



BOND AND FREE. 133 

Landon's on Christmas-day. Blanche and 
Mary Southern were staying there, and a 
good many of Mr. Landon's relatives were 
assembled. Wilfred felt like one suddenly 
awakened from a dream ; he found it diffi- 
cult to keep up an appearance of interest 
in what was going on round him — difficult 
to avoid falling back into the interrupted 
dream-life. Want of due rest and of physical 
exercise were beginning to tell on him ; he 
was shy and nervous, and carried this off 
by a manner which made those who had not 
known him before think him proud and 
supercilious. 

The warm and pretty rooms, decked with 
flowers and evergreens, the brilliant lights 
and the elegant dresses of the ladies, combined 
to produce an atmosphere in so strong con- 
trast to that of his mean and solitary lodg- 
ings, that he could not at first breathe 
freely in the one, having been long accus- 



134 BOND AND FREE. 

tomed to the other. Though Mrs. Landon 
paid him all possible attention, the children 
were Wilfred's grand resource. 

^^ As I drove past Hope's, the great toy- 
shop, last evening, I thought I saw you 
there with a little girl," Mrs. Landon said, 
when she had expressed a fear that her 
Lily was troublesome to him. 

" My landlady's daughter — a gentle little 
creature. She is the greatest, I may 
say the only, attraction the house has." 
Wilfred brightened into interest as he 
spoke. 

" How fond you are of children ! " Mrs. 
Landon exclaimed. " Why do you not 
come oftener and see ours? Herbert scolds 
us for seeing so little of you — by-the-by 
he complains that you are a wretched cor- 
respondent." 

" You are very kind — he is very kind ; but 
I have been very much occupied," Wilfred 



BOND AND FREE. 135 

answered, confusedly. Mrs. Landon did not 
like to question him as to his occupations, 
or to caution him about his health, as her 
mother would have done : she did not feel 
the same elder-sisterly ease with him that 
she had done at Beech Holmes. On the 
whole, Wilfred did not produce a favour- 
able impression upon the Landons — and he 
was conscious that he did not : they thought 
him grown proud and reserved, and were 
afraid that he might resent as patronage 
their efforts to keep up intercourse with 
him. On his side — going home dissatisfied 
with himself, for a day or two feeling un- 
settled and restless — ^he formed the opinion 
that society was a luxury in which it was 
not good that a poor and struggling literary 
man should indulge, and that he should be 
wise to refuse all future invitations. 

In spite of their disappointment in him, 
it was not long before the Landons wrote 



136 BOND AND FREE. 

to ask him to spend a Sunday with them. 
Unfortunately, this invitation was brought to 
him by little Jane when he was deeply en- 
grossed in his work: he gave the child a 
mechanical smile and " thank you," and put 
the note down; it soon disappeared among 
sheets of manuscript, and its arrival was for- 
gotten. It was not opened till many months 
afterwards, when he came upon it acci- 
dentally. Calling at the Landons' house then, 
to make what apology he could, he found 
the family out of town. 



137 



CHAPTER VIII. 

"Concevoir, c'est jouir, c'est fumer des cigarettes en- 
chantees ; mais sans I'execution tout s'en va en reve et en 
fiimee." 

" Wollt ihr hoch auf ihren Flugeln schweben 
Wirft die Angst des Irdischen von eucli ! 
Fliehet aus dem engen, dumpfen Leben 
In des Ideals Reich. ! " 

Wilfred repeated these lines of Schiller's; 
then muttered, with a bitter smile — 

*^Very fit advice for a taunting Mephis- 
topheles to whisper in the ear of a starving 
Faust ! " 

Wilfred had just been startled, to find him- 
self face to face with pennilessness. By 



138 BOND AND FREE. 

answering advertisements, he had made two 
attempts to get employment as a tutor ; 
but references had been required in each 
case, as he might have known they would 
be, and he had not chosen to refer to Mr. 
Landon, his only friend in town. 

He had also made an attempt, which 
had likewise proved unsuccessful, to get 
a tale published in a magazine in which 
two of his shorter poems (for which, how- 
ever, no payment had been offered him) 
had appeared. 

Now he sat, with his almost empty 
purse in his hand, pondering what to do 
next. If he had lately looked forward to 
gaining a livelihood by the pursuit of 
light, ephemeral literature, he had not 
contemplated giving himself up to a 
hack-literary life : he had planned that he 
could live upon next to nothing; had ex- 
pected to earn this *^next to nothing'' 



BOND AND FREE. 139 

easily, and without infringing upon the 
time needful for the cultivation of what 
higher powers he might possess. He had 
said, again and again, that he was not am- 
bitious, but, nevertheless, grand visions had 
floated before his eyes during the last few 
months. 

Selecting what seemed to him the most 
finished story among the many he had 
thrown off, Wilfred sat up late into that 
night, correcting and recopying it, de- 
signing to offer it to the editor of the 
most popular miscellany of that day. Had 
he waited for sober day-light, he would 
probably have been struck by its crudity 
of conception and incoherence of execution, 
by its utter want of that ^^nettete^' which 
has been called " le vernis des maitres," 
and would have spared himself the pain of 
its rejection; but the kindly note, which in- 
formed him of its fate, contained a courteous 



140 BOND AND FREE. 

invitation to *Hry again/' some hints as to 
the kind of " article " likely to meet with 
the success of acceptance, and several 
expressions of encouragement. 

Wilfred, tossing the manuscript into the 
fire, in the first heat of disappointment 
and mortification, exclaimed that his genius 
was not to be dictated to : then he coloured 
at his own arrogance in using a word, to 
him so sacred, in connection with such 
worthless matter as was contained in his 
poor pages. 

For some days after this disappointment 
he did nothing but eat, sleep, and roam 
the streets, in a state of morbid despond- 
ency. When the end of the week came, he 
parted with some of his books, that he 
might be able to meet his landlady. On 
Sunday — a fair spring Sunday — ^he started 
for a long walk; his mood was black and 
despairing, and he took very little heed 



BOND AND FREE. 141 

where he went ; but when he found him- 
self in the fields, breathed upon by a 
south wind and with the mild sunshine 
falling on him, found himself alone be- 
neath a budding tree, at the root of which 
clustered wide and mild-eyed primroses, 
then his mood changed wholly : he threw 
himself down upoii the turf — tears came 
into his eyes as he gazed into those of 
the fair primroses — he felt weak as a little 
child, but quiet and happy. 

^' It is worth living through a bleak 
and cheerless winter only to feel and see 
the beauty of spring — worth living a bleak 
and cheerless life to enter just now and 
then into the full enjoyment of mere being. 
Thy earth is fair and good, even in Thy 
sight, Father ! In this sweet air and warm 
sunshine I feel Thy loving breath ! Thou 
hast made no creature in vain— teach me 
Thy will with me." 



142 BOND AND FREE. 

After murmuring these and similar words, 
Wilfred fell into deep meditation ; but his 
consideration of his position and prospects, 
though calm, was quite inconclusive ; so, 
turning his thoughts from a vexed and 
distasteful subject, he gave himself up to 
enjoyment of the lovely scene and of his 
own vague dreams and aspiring fancies. 
His enjoyment was pure — but may we give 
ourselves up to the purest enjoyment when- 
ever it olBfers itself? Is the wisdom of 
those who do so the wisdom of children 
of this generation, or of children of light? 
Should not Wilfred, finding his brain clear 
and passions calm, have bent his reason 
and will to the solving of the problem 
of how, and for what, to live ? If he 
erred, his error was rewarded. Tender 
and graceful thoughts and images — uncon- 
sciously the primroses had called up the 
memory of Felicia — gathered together in 



BOND AND FREE. 143 

his imagination, and clustered harmoni- 
ously to a beautiful whole. 

Pacing up and down the sun-quickened 
hedgerow, or lying beneath the tree, Wil- 
fred let morning pass into afternoon, and 
afternoon deepen into evening, before he 
turned his steps towards London. 

He was hungry and tired enough when 
he reached his lodging. His poor room 
looked almost homelike. Jane, for whom 
he had remembered to gather a bunch of 
flowers, was watching for him ; and his 
tea, to which, in consideration of his having 
had no dinner, cold meat and a nice, fresh- 
looking salad had been added, was ready 
— the kettle singing beside a cheerful 
fire. 

^* Mother is at church. I might not go, 
because of my cough. Mother said that, 
for a treat, I might stay here till you 
came home; but that I must not stay after 



144 BOND AND FREE. 

you came in, unless you asked me," Jane 
explained this, confidently expecting the in- 
vitation she desired. 

When she had received it she was at 
ease to express her delight with the flowers. 
*^And, oh! I am so glad you are come 
back," she added, **for I was getting very 
frightened. 1 heard mother telling Susan 
such dreadful things about a lodger she 
had once, who drowned himself in the 
river on a Sunday. And mother said 
you had been looking so badly lately.'' 

*^You foolish little maiden! — you are al- 
ways frightened about something or other. 
But come, you must make my tea for me ; 
only I will carry the teapot to the kettle 
— it is too heavy for you to lift." 

Wilfred piled some books on a chair, 
and lifted the child up upon this perch, 
in front of the tea-tray. Here she was 
in her glory — very sorry when "mother" 



BOND AND FREE. 145 

and bed-time came together. She prattled 
faster, her eyes were brighter, and her 
cheeks redder than usual. 

'^ I hope she hasn't been troublesome, 
sir," her mother said, when, the child in 
bed, she came to take away Wilfred's tea- 
things. Speaking, she sighed, as was her fre- 
quent fashion — '^ She wont be troublesome to 
anyone long, I'm thinking," was added in 
a lower voice and with a heavier sigh, as 
she left the room. 

Wilfred pondered over her words un- 
easily ; the next time he saw her, when 
Jane was not by, he asked their mean- 
ing. 

" ! she's going sir — that's all ! " 

** Going ! You don't mean " 

" Dying, sir, that's it ; all the others went — 
she's the last, and she's going. It don't 
so much matter this time ; I just work 
on while there's one of them left. She's 

VOL. I. L 



146 BOND AND FREE. 

the last; when she's gone, then I shall 
just go too.'' 

"But, Mrs. Morgan, Jane does not seem 
ill ; you muSt not be so down-hearted — 
you must be more hopeful." 

" I know the cough, sir — haven't I 
heard it again and again ? I know the 
look of the eyes, too, and the waxy white 
round the mouth." 

"But, if she is ill, you must do some- 
thing for her — you must try country air. 
How she would enjoy picking primroses! 
Have you had advice ? " 

"Nothing makes any difference — she'll 
go ; the others did, do what I would. 
You're very good and kind " 

Here the woman's stolid calm gave 
way — she burst into tears, dropped into a 
chair, and sobbed convulsively. 

Wilfred's cheek paled in the presence of 
this real human sorrow ; racking his brain 



BOND AND FREE. 147 

for consoling words, he was bitterly 
grieved to be unable, by reason of his 
empty purse, to make any offer to pay 
for medical advice, for change of air — 
for any of those things on which, in such 
cases, hope builds. 

Mrs. Morgan soon recovered composure, 
and set about that work of tidying up 
the room, which was never left to Susan 
now, saying, as she did so : — 

" Don't notice me — don't pity me ! that 
knocks me down sooner than all, sir, and 
I must last out till she's gone." 

Wilfred could not ask his landlady to 
wait a week for the week's rent, because 
he knew she wanted money; so more of 
his cherished books were disposed of. 
Before a third Saturday came, however, 
a story of his had been accepted by the 
friendly editor who had refused the other : 
what seemed to him a considerable sum 

l2 



148 BOND AND FREE. 

of money was now in his hands. Nothing 
gives unmixed pleasure to a morbidly 
susceptible temperament like Wilfred's — this 
success came to him with its bloom 
rubbed oflP. He had been requested to 
call upon Mr. Brook, the editor in ques- 
tion, and had done so ; his reception had 
been cordial ; the criticism bestowed upon 
his writing was genial, sympathetic, and 
encouraging; and yet Wilfred had felt his 
soul shrink and shiver beneath this criti- 
cism, as exotic, hot-house plants might do 
upon having a healthful English breeze let 
in upon them; while the bright, pene- 
trating eyes of the speaker had seemed to 
him to be painfully sharp, and cruelly pierc- 
ing. 

As he returned from this interview, 
Wilfred made a resolution that, if he fol- 
lowed the profession of literature, he 
would, as much as possible, avoid contact 



BOND AND FREE. • 149 

with his fellow-workers; imagining that 
nothing would so much tend to dispel 
artistic illusions, and to rub off the fresh- 
ness and bloom of fancy, as would the 
so-called "mixing in literary circles." 

The strict adherence to this resolution, 
by which Wilfred showed that persistent 
obstinacy in small matters which is often 
seen in men who are weak and wavering 
in important things, made him some enemies, 
and caused him, in the days of partially- 
achieved success, to be as lonely as in those of 
early aspiration and struggling endeavour. 

Notwithstanding all drawbacks, the pos- 
session of his first-earned gold brought a 
sense of joy and power with it. Reach- 
ing his lodgings, Wilfred's first thought 
was of little Jane ; his first words were 
of inquiry for her — for a few days he 
had lost sight of her. 

" She's very bad to-day, sir — she's 



150 BOND AND FREE. 

been talking, wandering like, the night 
through. She won't get up to-day." 

When Wilfred begged Mrs. Morgan to 
send for any medical man in whom she 
had confidence, she complied, more to gra- 
tify Wilfred than because she had any 
hope. The physician for whom she sent 
having visited the little sufferer, Wilfred 
questioned him as to what could be done 
to arrest the progress of disease — ques- 
tioned him closely and eagerly. 

The doctor's answer — that he was called 
in too late, that the child was surely 
marked for death — cruelly robbed Wilfred's 
first success of the gloss of unselfish joy. 
— " ^ Too late ! ' — in this world all good 
things come too late," he murmured to 
himself. 

Towards the evening of that day Mrs. 
Morgan came to Wilfred in great distress; 
she begged him to go up and see Jane, 



BOND AND FREE. 151 

and try if he could in any way quiet 
her. She added, by way of explanation — 

"That silly Susan has let out what the 
doctor said, and fear' 11 kill the child at 
once, I'm thinking." 

Wilfred followed her up the narrow 
attic stairs to where the child lay. He 
shuddered to hear the stifled cries which 
were only interrupted by terrible fits of 
coughing. 

The unexpected appearance of her friend 
startled little Jane into quietness ; she 
fell back on her pillow exhausted, and 
lay still, her hand in his. 

The poor mother left them together. 

Presently the child said, in a timid 
whisper : — 

"Susan is wicked to tell stories. I 
shall not die, Mr. Mason, shall I? That 
kind gentleman did not say so, did 
he?" 



152 BOND AND FREE. 

Wilfred's soothing, evasive answers and 
loving words drew the child on to let him 
see of what her ignorant notion of death 
consisted — first of being laid in the wormy, 
foul earth of the black churchyard, close by, 
peering through the railings of which she 
had often watched an interment ; then of 
suffering, with some part of herself which 
she had heard called her soul, fiery and 
endless torments, in that hell which Susan 
had threatened her with when she had 
been a naughty child; and she thought 
she had very often been a naughty child, 
and that God must be so angry that 
"he would let the devil have her." 

As she ran on with feverish, frightened 
talk — questioning Wilfred as to this hell, 
this devil, and the amount of her own 
sinfulness — his spirit stood aghast at the 
hideousness of the horrors crowding the 
poor child's mind; recalling how the idea 



BOND AND FREE. 153 

of giving her regular instruction had oc- 
curred to him, only to be lightly abandoned ; 
he felt that he was culpable — that this 
ignorance which left room for such ghastly 
images was a sin to lie heavy upon his con- 
science. All he could now do to retrieve 
his error of omission he did, faithfully 
and unwearyingly. 

Without directly answering Jane's ques- 
tions, he began to speak of a churchyard 
in the country, where beautiful grass and 
flowers grew upon graves shaded by trees 
in which birds sang sweetly, and where 
little children came to play and gather 
daisies. He drew such a picture of the pret- 
tiness and the peace of the place, dwell- 
ing on details likely to captivate a child's 
fancy, that when he ended, Jane said : — 

"I should not so much mind dying 
if I might be taken to such a nice 
place as that." 



154 BOND AND FREE. 

Wilfred gave her his earnest promise 
that she should be taken to just such a 
place. Soothed by this, and by his gentle 
tones, she became quiet. The room was 
getting dark now, presently he thought by 
her breathing that she had fallen asleep. 
But when he rose to go she started up, 
cried that he must not leave her — that 
the room was full of horrid things. Terror 
again took full possession of her ; she 
uttered shrieks that turned his blood cold 
to hear. 

Wilfred felt that the most difficult 
work was yet to do ; he procured a 
light, and then began to speak of God as 
a tender Father, who was especially tender 
to children ; of Jesus as one who loved 
children, and called them round him, 
though we are not told that they were 
all '' quite good " children ; he tried to 
make it clear to Jane that it was no 



BOND AND FREE. 155 

more probable that a God, who was a 
God of love and mercy, should suffer 
any devil to " take away " and torment 
one of his creatures, than that her 
mother would permit any bad person to 
take away and ill-use her little daughter. 
He talked on and on, surprised at the 
readiness of his own faith for the child, 
and at the ease with which words came to 
his tongue. Jane listened with a thirsty 
face, that gradually grew less eager and 
fevered. At last, her evil spirit cast out 
for a time, she slept a calm, cool sleep. 
But though Jane received all Wilfred 
told her, with unquestioning faith, one 
hour's talk could not enlighten the su- 
perstition, or banish the terror, which had 
been the growth of years. The poor child's 
paroxysms of frenzied fear recurred 
again and again, though happily with 
ever-diminishing violence. 



156 BOND AND FREE. 

Every evening, therefore, before dusk 
began to gather, if Jane were not well 
enough to be brought to the sofa in his 
own room, Wilfred now took his station 
by the tiny bed in the attic ; with 
soothing talk, or a story told or read, 
he whiled away the dreaded hour between 
day-light and candle-light. Oranges, grapes, 
ice, early strawberries, any cool and 
pleasant dainty that suggested itself to 
his imagination, or hers, it was his 
pleasure to procure for little Jane. 

Just at this time he received a kind 
and urgent invitation to Beech Holmes, to 
be present at Blanche Southern's wedding : — 

" It is real May-time now — soft and 
sunny — more pleasant and lovely than 
you, in smoky London, can imagine," 
Mrs. Southern wrote. " Our bride and 
our bridesmaids will be bonnie — and, 
altogether, the wedding will be a pretty 



BOND AND FREE. 157 

sight. Do come ; we all, and especially 
Herbert and Felicia, count upon your 
presence." 

Wilfred did not for a moment hesitate 
how to answer. If Jane had been his 
own dying child it could not have 
seemed more impossible to him to leave 
her side than it now did. In his letter, 
which he strove to make express his 
deep gratitude for Mrs. Southern's kind 
remembrance, he merely stated that it was 
impossible for him to leave town at 
present, without giving any reason why 
it was impossible : if they did him less 
than justice on receiving that answer, 
later, when the truth oozed out, one of 
them at least did him more than justice, 
thinking his self-denial most chivalrous 
and heroic. 

As the child's end drew near, Wilfred 
often watched by her half the night, 



158 BOND AND FREE. 

while her mother took some sorely-needed 
rest. 

If Jane slept, he thought much at 
these times — of the sweetness of human 
ties and the agony of their breaking — of 
his own absolute loneliness — of there 
being no one who would keep a watch 
of love by his bed of sickness, or a 
watch of sorrow by his bed of death. 
And perhaps it would be so ever — per- 
haps he might never call any woman 
" wife," or have any child to call him 
"father." 

One morning when the mother came to 
relieve his watch he relinquished the tiny 
hand, that lay cool and listless in his own, 
with peculiar reluctance, and the light pres- 
sure of his lips on the marble-pale brow 
was a long, lingering pressure. That day 
little Jane died ! She was buried in a 
country churchyard — such a one as Wilfred 



BOND AND FREE. 159 

had described to her. Her friend often 
visited the place, often stood beside the 
small mound, gazing on the simple head-stone 
which he had put up to mark the place 
where she had been laid to rest. 

For many a day there was a sore spot 
and an aching void in Wilfred's heart. 
Many a time he found himself listening 
for light feet on the stairs, or looking 
with wistful expectancy towards his opening 
door. Experiencing a new pang of loss, 
he returned to his work in an embittered 
mood, which mirrored itself in that work. 
This little creature — this one human being 
who had brightened his life by her love — this 
his one ewe-lamb — might have been spared 
to him, he thought. Giving himself up 
entirely to the fitful and fantastic prompt- 
ing of his powerful but morbid imagination, 
he allowed his practical human sympathies 
to narrow daily. His longing for idealized 



160 BOND AND FREE. 

ties, for a form of happiness which he 
believed to be impossible for him, grew 
and deepened in proportion as his life be- 
came more and more isolated and barren. 
Long after he could have afforded better 
accommodation — for he met with more 
success than was wholesome for him at this 
crisis — he remained at those dingy lodgings ; 
perhaps as much from apathy and indolence as 
from consciousness of a lingering charm about 
them. It was not till Mrs. Morgan gave 
up the house — going to die among country 
friends — that he left it. Then he left 
London altogether for a time ; but this 
was not till little Jane had been dead '^a 
weary while " — as her mother said — not till 
he counted the time he had occupied those 
rooms by years rather than by months. 



161 



CHAPTER IX. 

" God's cMef angel waiteth for 

A brother's voice to sing ; 
And a lonely creature of sinful nature — 
It is an awful thing." 

Excessive, suicidal work, without any worthy 
aim, to very little worthy result, alternated 
in Wilfred's life with an utter idleness — 
during which he was morbidly miserable, 
and believed all literary power lost to him 
for ever — according as the urgent need 
for the mental action of expression, or 
the apathetic dulness following upon over- 
strained effort, effacing all belief in any 
good, possessed him. 

VOL. L M 



162 BOND AND FREE. 

In his most morbid moods ^^to win a 
name " was now a dread rather than an 
ambition. 

" Who is this Mason ?" he fancied he 
heard people enquire, after he had published 
a novel which attracted considerable atten- 
tion. Imagination would run riot in an- 
swering the question it had itself suggested 
— depicting various depths of inherited in- 
famy into which the revelation of his real 
name might some day plunge him. Some- 
times he would be so far possessed by his 
demon of self-torment as to hear a mocking 
intonation in any voice that addressed him 
as "Mason," and to read dubious question- 
ing in the eyes of any stranger who chanced 
to glance at him. Wrapping himself more 
and more within himself, he excused him- 
self to accusing conscience by pleading that 
he had no right to make friends — no right 
to receive or confer benefits ; that he did 



BOND AND FREE. 163 

well to shrink from his fellows now, as 
they might, when the time came, shrink 
from him. 

Of course these morbidly miserable moods 
sometimes made way for brighter ones. 
There were seasons when to walk in the 
sunshine — to look at a beautiful picture or 
a beautiful face — to listen to grand or 
touching music — to read noble prose or 
exquisite verse — or to be conscious of a 
creative stirring in his own mind — seemed 
to fill his whole being with a vivid joy ; 
so that he would say, " Life is worth 
living for, if it only brings just a few 
moments of such joy as this ! " 

Walking along a street one morning, in 
one of his dreariest moods, he was aware 
that, for a few moments, some one had 
pertinaciously kept pace with him: but he 
did not care to turn his head till a hand 
was passed through his arm. Looking round 

M 2 



164 BOND AND FREE. 

then, he looked straight into Herbert South- 
ern's eyes, beaming with fun and friendliness. 

" It does my heart good to see you ! '' 
he said, coming to a dead stop — " mis- 
chievous as ever ! I felt that some one 
was keeping close by me, but supposed it 
only accident. I did not dream of your 
being in town." 

^' You must come with me at once ; I 
was on my way to hunt you out. My 
mother and Felicia are also in town." 

"At Mrs. Landon's?" 
. "Yes." 

" I should like of all things to see them ; 
but—" 

" No buts ; I know that you have treated 
the Landons, and all of us, abominably; 
but we will forgive you if you will behave 
rationally now." 

They walked on together, chatting 
gaily — for Wilfred's dreariness could not re- 



BOND AND FREE. 165 

sist the contagion of Herbert's cheery, 
hearty kindness. When they reached the 
Landons' door, Herbert said — 

" I shall try and pass you oflf as a stranger — 
you are very much altered, and I didn't 
say I was going to try and find you.'' 

"Always looking out for a joke, as of 
old," Wilfred remarked, rather nervously. 

"You don't blame me? There's much 
work and little play in my life at present 
— in most lives always. Though all the 
knockers in this street are on the broad 
grin, I daresay they see funerals pass as 
often as they see weddings." 

So saying, he laid a vigorous hand on 
the facetious knocker, and gave a rap that 
made Wilfred's nerves vibrate. 

Mrs. Southern was alone in the drawing- 
room when the young men entered it : the 
green Venetian blinds were down, and her 
sight was not very good. Herbert intro- 



166 BOND AND FREE. 

duced Wilfred to his mother, as he would 
have introduced a stranger, slurring over 
the name. For the time she was quite 
deceived. After a few moments had been 
passed in grave discussion of the weather, 
and of the gaiety of town-life at this season, 
Felicia came into the room ; she hesitated 
a moment, but Herbert went through a 

formal introduction of his friend Mr. , 

making an almost inarticulate sound, to " my 
youngest sister." 

As Wilfred rose, a sunbeam straying in 
between the blinds fell on his face. Fe- 
licia's colour deepened ; she turned a pretty, 
perplexed look, first on her mother, then 
on Herbert, as she took a seat. Felicia 
was now no longer a child ; she had lost 
something of her childish beauty, and had 
not yet gained womanly grace ; her face 
seldom struck strangers as beautiful, but 
all observant eyes turned to it again and 



BOND AND FREE. 167 

again, loving to dwell on its pure colouring, 
its delicate refinement of form, and its ex- 
pression of calm sense, quiet goodness, and 
gentle candour. 

Eeceiving no information from either of 
her questioning looks, Felicia, seated be- 
side her mother, took up her work; but 
when Wilfred spoke — he had only bowed 
as he was introduced to her — flushing crim- 
son, she turned to her mother, and said 
softly, 

"Mamma! It is Wilfred! Isn't it? 
Herbert is playing us a trick." 

Mrs. Southern had been secretly puzz- 
ling herself over the familiarity of the 
voice. 

"Why, Herbert, you rogue, to deceive 
your old mother ! " she now exclaimed. 
Extending both hands to Wilfred, in cor- 
dial welcome, she added, " I am delighted 
to see you — delighted to have the oppor- 



168 BOND AND FREE. 

tunity of thanking you for some truly 
pleasant hours, and of congratulating you 
on your success. We are very clever 
now, we always find you out. I should 
have been deeply disappointed if I had 
gone back to Beech Holmes without hav- 
ing seen you." 

Genuine pleasure lit up Wilfred's face 
and shone in his soft eyes, as he re- 
turned the pressure of Mrs. Southern's 
hands. 

Herbert stood by, enjoying his partial 
success. 

*^But Felicia was not half taken in,*' 
he said, regretfully. 

"Should you have known her?'^ asked 
her mother. 

"Anywhere. I do not think she is 
altered," Wilfred answered. 

He saw the same loving serenity in her 
eyes — the same simple, happy smile on 



BOND AND FREE. 169 

her mouth, and did not observe other 
changes, till he found that the child who 
used to be far below his elbow was 
now a maiden, literally " as high as his 
heart." 

When Mrs. Landon joined them, Wilfred 
had been so thoroughly roused and hu- 
manized by surprise and pleasure, that he 
made his much-needed apologies with grace- 
ful earnestness. They were accepted gra- 
ciously, yet in a way that showed they 
were not felt to be needless. 

After having accompanied his friends on 
their morning round of sight-seeing, Wil- 
fred returned with them to the Landons, 
to dine and spend the evening there. 
Herbert, who was in practice in the North 
with his brother-in-law, John Landon, was 
obliged to leave town next day. He 
begged Wilfred to be his mother's occa- 
sional escort while she remained, and an 



170 BOND AND FREE. 

appointment was made for the very next 
morning. 

Mrs. Southern had no remorse in occu- 
pying Wilfred's time. She thought he 
looked overworked, and as if a holiday 
would do him good ; so for a fortnight 
he was in almost daily attendance, escort- 
ing Mrs. Southern, Mrs. Landon, and 
Felicia to such places as they wished to 
visit. 

Felicia was always the member of the 
party most immediately under his charge ; 
and to her, child as he still thought her 
— perhaps because he thought her such a 
child — he spoke more of his outer and 
inner life than he had ever spoken to 
anyone before ; so that, guided by her 
clear sense, she came to have some idea 
of its peculiar loneliness, its peculiar trials, 
and its peculiar temptations. To her, too, 
he spoke of little Jane — of what she had 



BOND AND FREE. 171 

been to him, and of how he had missed her. 
Quite unconsciously, he talked above his 
ordinary self when he talked to Felicia; 
just as, with many other people, he kept 
the most precious things of his soul secret 
and hidden, and involuntarily lowered his 
ordinary standard of principles and convic- 
tions. 

From whatever cause it arose — whether 
from love of ease, or from want of moral 
weight to balance a too great love of 
approbation — it is certain that Wilfred, 
whose intellectual individuality was sharp 
and clear, had, at this time, a dangerous 
pliability and adaptability of ethical cha- 
racter. Believing Felicia to be completely 
pure and loving — all that is most excel- 
lent in child and woman combined — the« 
contact of her being elevated the tone of 
his own. It is possible that he somewhat 
idealized a good child — but that is no 



1 72 BOND AND FREE. 

matter ; the influence was the same as if 
she had been all angel, as he imagined 
her, and as no child or woman is. For 
her his best and deepest qualities were 
always those uppermost. Content to revere 
where she could not understand, and find- 
ing food for reverence in what she did 
understand, this close and confidential 
intercourse only tended to foster and 
confirm the tender, pitying, and yet almost 
worshiping, admiration which Felicia al- 
ready entertained for the young author. 

Almost always calm, her enthusiasm and 
romance being as undemonstrative as they 
were deep-seated, most people regarded 
Felicia as just a thoughtful, practical, and 
amiable little creature ; certainly not clever, 
.still more certainly not poetical, therefore 
not in danger fi:'om influences to which they 
would have hesitated to expose a more sus- 
ceptible and imaginative girl. 



BOND AND FREE. 173 

She was not clever; in that they were 
right — her intellect was neither quick nor 
particularly clear : nor was she highly ima- 
ginative — while her susceptibility was of so 
fine and subtle a nature as seldom to be 
perceptible through the veil of habitual 
reticence. Her understanding seemed to lie 
almost wholly in her affections — she appre- 
ciated beauty with her heart, not with her 
mind ; her nature was one in which a rare 
candour and a rare reserve were exquisitely 
well balanced. 

From what Wilfred had said about his 
landlady's little daughter, Felicia had ga- 
thered how good he had been to her, and 
that for her sake he had declined to visit 
Beech Holmes. Other things of a similar 
nature she secretly treasured in her heart 
till, long after, some real or fancied attack 
upon her hero led her to pour them out 



174 BOND AND FREE. 

as SO many triumphant proofs of his good- 
ness and gentleness of heart. 

The last day of Mrs. Southern's stay in 
town was a sad day for Wilfred. When 
he was alone with the mother and daugh- 
ter, Mrs. Southern asked him if he would 
not now take back his letter — Felicia had 
brought it to town with her, in case he 
should be willing to do so, she said. 

Wilfred looked earnestly at Felicia — 
her colour had risen, and tears stood in 
her eyes. 

" Would you rather I took it ? Is the 
care of it a trouble — a burden to you ? '' he 
asked her. 

" Oh, no ; indeed no ! Dear mamma, let 
me keep it still, if Wilfred wishes it." 

"Does Wilfred much wish it?" 

"In taking it from Felicia, I should 
feel as if she and you both gave me up 



BOND AND FREE. 175 

— as if there were no longer any link be- 
tween me and my only friends." 

'^You would be a very absurd boy to 
feel any such thing; if there is ever any 
giving up in the case, it will be you who 
give us up. However, you must have your 
own way : let things be as they are for the 
present." 

While receiving warm thanks from both 
Felicia and Wilfred, Mrs. Southern had an 
undefined consciousness of having done un- 
wisely in allowing herself to earn them ; 
however, as the deed was done, she strove 
to overcome that feeling. 

Next morning Wilfred went early to 
Mrs. Landon^s, meaning to accompany his 
friends to the station. Felicia was in the 
drawing-room alone when he arrived; she 
sat by the window, and did not hear him 
enter. When he approached her, the eyes 
raised to his were full of tears ; there 



176 BOND AND FREE. 

was a sweet sadness about her mouth too — 
few mouths can look so sad, and at the 
same time so perfectly sweet, as did Felicia's. 

"You have had a happy visit," he said, 
as he seated himself by her ; " but you 
are not sorry to go back to Beech 
Holmes?" 

"Oh, no!" 

"You are grieved to leave your sister?" 

" Oh, no ! for she is coming to us very 
soon." 

As Wilfred's eyes still questioned her, 
she looked up into them bravely, and 
said — 

" I was thinking of you— it was that made 
me feel sad." 

"Of me, my child?" 

" They say you have no friends here 
— that you are not happy — -you will miss 



us." 



Wilfred took one of the child's hands 



BOND AND FREE. 177 

in his and answered, speaking very softly : — 
'' Indeed I shall miss you, but I hope 
to be happier and better for having been 
so much with you. I will be happier and 
better if only for your sake. You have done 
me great good, dear child. I will not for- 
get what I owe you. God bless you, and 
give you all happiness ! '^ 

She joined her other little hand timidly 
over the one he held ; he bent down and 
kissed it ; when he raised his head and 
met her eyes, the unconscious love they 
expressed made him tremble, filling him 
with a sense of trouble and of delicious 
awe. But the loving eyes were serene, 
now the tears had fallen from them 
they did not lower themselves before his ; 
nor did the colour on her cheek deepen. 
Felicia did not tremble, though, silly child 
as she was, she felt a thrill at the 
touch of her hero's lips upon her hand, 
VOL. I. N 



178 BOND AND FREE. 

believed that touch to have in it something 
sacred and consecrating which made a feel- 
ing of holy happiness steal over her. 
For a long time she did not willingly 

offer that hand to any casual acquaint- 
ance. 



179 



CHAPTER X. 

" Alas ! both heart and brain are dull and dusk — 
That which hes here is but a graceless husk ; 
Although of violets, sweet-briar, and musk 

The o'er-scratched pages tell, 

I know, alas ! full well, 
But little fragrance in the thoughts doth dwell ! 

" How fain would I that this my work were fair ! 
Bright as the gleam of her dear golden hair, 
Pure as her child-heart, so that I might dare 

Lay it before my Queen, 

And see her eyes serene 
Raised from its pages large with loving sheen." 

By the next spring Wilfred had written, 
re-written, retouched with most fastidious 
care and dainty patience, and at last come 
to regard as complete, a poem which it 

n2 



180 BOND AND FREE. 

was then his ambition to get published, 
that he might send a daintily-bound copy 
to Felicia. He had never before written 
with so much purpose and quiet diligence; 
had never expended so much subtle re- 
fining care on any work. In spite of 
his despair, contrasting what it was with 
what he had hoped and dreamt it would 
be, he was conscious that this poem was 
more powerfully imagined and consistently 
executed — had more reality and worth than 
anything, either prose or poetry, which he 
had previously written. 

He took it first to a house which had 
published his novel, and had offered him 
liberal terms for his next ^* work of fic- 
tion ; '^ but the firm declined undertaking 
the publication of his poem. When it had 
been also declined by three other firms, 
the author took his manuscript home, say- 
ing that it must bide its time — wait till 



BOND AND FREE, 181 

he could get it printed at his own ex- 
pense. Though this was said calmly, the 
disappointment was hitter. Wilfred had 
not suffered himself to have any other 
work on hand while he wrote this poem — 
he had given himself up to it entirely : 
it was done for Felicia, and if it were 
not well done it should not be through 
carelessness. Though he had lived fru- 
gally, he now found that his finances were 
at a low ebb ; he felt ill, too — unfit for 
any brain work. 

He lingered in London during the sum- 
mer months ; sometimes almost prostrated 
by low fever, sometimes well enough to 
write a chapter or two of the novel 
which had been so long set aside. Tem- 
pestuous autumn weather set in early. It 
was just at the close of this summer that 
Mrs. Morgan at last resolved to give up 
the house in which he had lodged so 



182 BOND AND FREE. 

long ; the furniture was to be sold off; 
the lodgers were, of course, forced to de- 
part. Being, as it were, turned out of 
doors, Wilfred was seized with an uncon- 
trollable longing to meet the fierce wind 
on some sea-shore, or in some mountain- 
ous country. 

By parting with the remainder of his 
books, with very few exceptions — dis- 
posing of part of his wardrobe, and 
schooling his pride so far as to request 
the payment of a small sum which had 
long been owing to him, Wilfred got to- 
gether money enough to gratify this long- 
ing. He made his way into North 
Wales, and took up his quarters at a 
road-side inn near a small fishing-village. 
The place had little but its cheapness 
and quiet, and an almost savage wild- 
ness, to recommend it : the shore 
was low and sandy ; the sea generally 



BOND AND FREE. 183 

broke on it with a heavy thud, in long 
sweeps of turbid surf ; inland a 
sandy plain, overgrown by hardy plants — 
the sand-rose, the sea-pink, yellow poppy, 
and blue sea-thistle, things of a briny and 
prickly nature, yet not without a beauty 
of their own — was bounded by a bank of 
low hills, beyond which, one behind 
another, rose several mountain ranges. 

Such was Abergwynn : its bracing air 
revived Wilfred ; its wildness in that wild 
weather deeply pleased him ; the wind and 
waves were boisterous and health-giving 
companions. 

He had been there nearly two months, 
when, as he lay on a patch of shingle 
one sunshiny morning after a gale — watch- 
ing the advance and retreat of huge breakers, 
and speculating whether the tide would 
roll in as far as a certain sea-thistle- — 
he by and by saw a lady and gentleman, 



184 BOND AND FREE. 

mounted on Welsh ponies, come round a 
low point at the extremity of the bay and 
scour the sands to and fro, keeping close 
to the water's edge. Wilfred now watched 
them instead of the breakers — for he usu- 
ally had the whole stretch of shore to 
himself; he saw them presently leave the 
sands and turn their ponies inland. List- 
lessly wondering who they might be, he 
had returned to the contemplation of the 
waves, when the lady flew close by him 
— half blinding him with the sand and 
shingle thrown up by her pony's hoofs. 
Disgusted at the rudeness of the act, and 
not inclined to run any further risk of 
being trampled on, he rose and began to 
stroll from the spot, farther along the bay. 

** Stop her ! — for heaven's sake, stop 
her ! " a voice cried after him. 

He turned. The speaker was a short, 
somewhat stout, elderly man, who had 



BOND AND FREE. 185 

apparently been thrown from his horse, 
for he was covered with dust and sand, 
and seemed to be half-paralysed by fear. 

After a glance into his horror-stricken 
face, Wilfred swept the shore with his 
eyes for the cause of this alarm ; but he 
did not immediately discover it. 

" Where is she ? " he asked. 

Looking then in the direction in which the 
gentleman pointed, he saw the lady ; she was 
still clinging to her little steed, which was 
plunging wildly in the foamy waters, strug- 
gling seawards. Wilfred was soon at the 
water's edge, close to her ; just at that 
moment a crested wave swept completely 
over both horse and rider. 

" Get off! — throw yourself into the water, 
and I can save you ! '^ Wilfred shouted, 
when the wave had retreated. 

The girl turned a white, resolute face 
towards him for a moment, and shook her 



186 BOND AND FREE. 

head ; then she again bent over her pony 
— patting its neck, talking to it, using 
every effort to turn its head towards the 
shore, without success. The frightened crea- 
ture plunged about frantically ; it was already 
almost out of its depth — another large 
wave would, in its retreat, sweep it out 
to sea. The gentleman now stood by 
Wilfred's side, screaming and shouting; but 
the girl appeared to pay little heed. 

There was no time to be lost : they both 
saw a huge billow gathering ; the girl saw it 
too — for she raised her head a moment, 
and then seemed to redouble her efforts. A 
few instants later Wilfred's arms were 
thrown round her; he pulled her from her 
saddle and dragged her a few feet nearer 
the shore ; then the wave overtook them, 
broke over them, and knocked them down. 
When it had passed he rose, succeeded in 
carrying his burden to a safe distance, 



BOND AND FREE. 187 

and then fell down breathless and ex- 
hausted. 

The lady sprang to her feet immediately. 
Freeing her eyes from her wet and heavy 
hair, she looked out seawards — to see a dark 
object borne farther and farther out. 

** My poor Mountaineer, she is lost ! 
I might have saved her ! " she cried, as 
much in anger as in grief. 

^^But for this gentleman you would now 
be out of reach of human help, as your pony 
is, Eleanour." 

" Possibly ! I meant to save the poor 
beast, or to share her fate !" 

She turned sullenly from her father to 
look at Wilfred, who, resting on his arm, 
was slowly regaining breath. At first her 
large eyes kept a resentful expression in 
them ; then, extending her hand to her pale 
deliverer, she said : — 

**Let me help you to get up. I don't 



188 BOND AND FREE. 

know that my life was worth the trouble 
you have taken, and I think I might have 
saved the pony if you had left me alone ; 
but you acted bravely, and I suppose that 
I ought to thank you." 

Wilfred rose without touching the prof- 
fered hand — the girl's tone displeased him. 
Turning from her with a bow, he said to 
the gentleman, 

" I believe I can be of no further assis- 
tance ; unless, if you are far from home, 
you would like me to try and get you some 
conveyance." 

" I shall walk home, papa," the girl 
said ; then, looking out to sea again, she 
muttered, ^^ My poor Mountaineer ! — it's 
far worse to you to meet death than it 
would have been to me ; you battled fiercely 
— I think I should have kept calm." 

" What frightened the lady's horse ? " 
Wilfred asked. 



BOND AND FREE. 189 

" Some heaps of burning rubbish. It 
would not go through the smoke. My 
daughter strove to make it, and it wheeled 
round and dashed straight into the water." 

Having gathered up her wet habit, the 
lady began to walk towards the point from 
behind which Wilfred had seen her appear; 
but she suddenly paused, turned back to 
him, and said: — 

^'Papa has his hat to find, and his pony 
to give orders about. You are wet — will 
you walk home with me at once ? Our 
house must be nearer than yours." 

Wilfred declined the invitation, and she 
immediately turned from him with an air 
of having done a disagreeable duty. 

The gentleman, having had time to collect 
his scattered ideas, now warmly seconded his 
daughter's invitation — warmly expressed his 
own gratitude, telling Wilfred that he felt in- 
debted to his courage and presence of mind 



190 BOND AND FREE. 

for the life of his only daughter. He could 
not, however, prevail upon Wilfred to accept 
of his hospitality. 

"I am afraid my daughter's manner 
seemed cold — pray excuse her. Mountaineer 
was a great pet ; she will feel more grate- 
ful when she has got over the first shock of 
her loss,'' he said, apologetically. 

A boy now brought up the gentleman's 
hat and his pony, which, after throwing its 
rider, had remained quietly feeding near the 
spot. Unwilling to keep Wilfred standing 
in his wet clothes, he took leave of him 
and followed his daughter, leading his 
pony by the bridle. 

That night Wilfred's rest was disturbed 
by dreams which distorted and grotesquely 
misrepresented the events of the morning — 
continually presenting to his imagination 
that unnaturally calm, white face, sur- 
rounded by clinging masses of wet hair, 



BOND AND FREE. 191 

and lighted by large, resentful eyes. By 
daylight, too, and as he sat at breakfast 
in the inn parlour, he thought a good 
deal of his strange adventure — recalled the 
half-contemptuous gesture with which the 
girl had extended her glittering wet, white 
hand to him, and marvelled how much 
there was of reality, how much of affecta- 
tion, in the indifference to life which she 
had expressed. 

Before he had risen from the breakfast- 
table, a groom rode up to the inn door. 
Wilfred's window was open — he heard the 
man enquire of the landlord whether he 
had a gentleman staying in the house ; 
receiving an affirmative answer, he further 
asked if that gentleman had been on the 
shore yesterday morning when his lady's 
horse took fright. A moment after two 
notes were brought to Wilfred, with a 
message that Squire Narpenth's groom waited 
for his answer. 



192 BOND AND FREE. 

The note Wilfred opened first was from 
Mr. Narpenth, reiterating yesterday's ex- 
pressions of gratitude, inviting Wilfred to 
take up his quarters at his house for as long 
as he remained in the neighbourhood, and 
begging that he would do so in time for a 
six o'clock dinner on that day. 

Wilfred hastened to write an answer : ex- 
pressing his pleasure at having been of 
service, he briefly declined to avail himself 
of the invitation. It was not till the man 
had ridden off with this answer that Wilfred 
opened the second note. 

It was written in a foreign-looking, 
rather cramped hand — began and ended 
abruptly : — 

'* My father tells me that my conduct 
yesterday was ungrateful and unwomanly ; 
for the ingratitude I ask your pardon — for 
your exertion on my behalf I thank you, 
and I hope you have not suffered from 



BOND AND FREE. 193 

that exertion. Of course you could not 
know that I valued my pony's life to the 
full as highly as my own ; no doubt you 
acted with the best intentions. 

*^ I suppose the death you saved me from 
would have been terrible. I have not slept 
for seeing and hearing those angry, hungry 
waves. My poor Mountaineer ! Do you 
blame me for thinking more of her fate 
than of my own safety? 

"We shall see you to-day. In the 
meanwhile, I have said to my unknown 
deliverer that I thank him. I wish that 
the life he has saved were more valuable to 
its owner." 

This was the whole of the note which, 
many years afterwards, remained to bear 
-strange witness to the singular commence- 
ment of a singular intercourse. Why Wilfred 
did not destroy that note he did not know ; 
he did not keep the father's. 

VOL. I. 



194 BOND AND FREE. 

"If I had accepted her father's invita- 
tion — which, by-the-by, she takes for granted 
that I shall do — how would she have treated 
me, I wonder ? Condescendingly, I sup- 
pose ; she is evidently a haughty woman — 
how different from anything Felicia can ever 
become ! I should like to know what dis- 
pleases her in her fate, just out of curiosity, 
she is not a woman to inspire warmer 
interest; at the same time, more especially 
as she takes my coming for granted, I am 
glad I have refused her father's invitation." 

Had Wilfred wished to avail himself of 
Mr. Narpenth's offer of hospitality, he could 
hardly have done so — yesterday's saturation 
with salt-water had not improved a rough 
travelling suit, which, with the exception of 
one much shabbier, constituted the whole of 
his wardrobe. 

Afraid that Mr. Narpenth's gratitude and 
consciousness of obligation would not let 



BOND AND FREE. 195 

him rest content without making some 
further friendly overtures, Wilfred felt that 
the solitary charm of Abergwynn was gone : 
he left it that day. 



02 



196 



CHAPTER XL 

" Ach, was soil der Mensch verlangen ? 
1st es besser ruMg bleiben ? 
Klammernd f est sich anzuhangen ? 
1st es besser sich zu treiben ? " 

Eeturning to London in vigorous health, 
Wilfred settled himself to work, having hired 
a cheap lodging, one room at the top of a 
tall house, in an even more plebeian quarter 
than that he had before inhabited. At first 
he was happy here, for he had plenty of 
work to do, and abundant energy with 
which to do it. While he laboured with 
faith and hope his outward circumstances 
affected him but little. Till his novel was 



BOND AND FREE. 197 

finished he had not much to live upon ; he 
even found that dining at home was a too 
expensive habit — sometimes he dined at a 
cheap eating-house, sometimes he did not 
dine at all. For a few months he was cer- 
tainly happy ; it seemed to do him good to 
have to fight with outward enemies — to 
have to work to keep cold and hunger at 
bay ; he was then in no temper, and had 
no time, for indulgence in the morbid 
miseries of imagination — for he worked ear- 
nestly ; but the battle was long and hard, 
and he grew weak and weary. When his 
work was finished, fairly finished, and before 
the public, he was in no mood to enjoy or 
to value success, such as he achieved; he 
had spent himself in the fight, without 
caring for the result of victory — at least 
without caring for such things as were 
likely i' to be the result of victory. The 
feather-weight of the paper crown won seemed 



198 BOND AND FREE. 

enough to crush him — the wreath of puny 
nineteenth-century laurels was as a crown 
of thorns. 

The novel which had been so long on 
hand, a volume of essays, and a small 
volume of short poems, were all published 
early in this autumn. They were all well 
received, all proved more or less successful. 
As his purse grew heavy, it seemed that 
his heart grew heavy with it. 

Sitting in his dingy upper chamber, weak- 
ened in body and mind by privation and 
overwork, he wept tears of anguished 
and pitiable self-pity over the isolation 
which made prosperity so utterly valueless. 
What was success to him ? — a glaring 
light thrown into the chambers of his soul, 
to show him the ghastly dread inhabiting 
there. So complete was his self-imposed 
loneliness that he had not one friend to 
rejoice with him — he did not receive one 



BOND AND FREE. 199 

congratulatory hand-shake which he could 
believe was that of warm, disinterested 
affection. Of the Landons he had seen 
nothing since his return to London ; they 
did not know where to find him. His 
last letter to Herbert Southern remained 
unanswered, for the simple reason that, 
while he had told Herbert that he had 
given up his former rooms, he had given 
him no new address ; so he felt himself 
cut off from the sympathy even of the 
Beech Holmes circle — fancied that even 
there, even by Felicia, he was by this 
time forgotten. 

One sultry night, late in September, 
Wilfred leant from his open window, and 
watched a storm gathering over the city. 
At the top and at the back of the lofty 
house, his window commanded a wide ex- 
tent of chimneys and of smoke-darkened sky, 
The day had been one of stifling closeness ; 



200 BOND AND FREE. 

during it he had not had energy enough to 
leave the house, but had merely lounged 
away the hours, hoping that the evening 
coolness would bring him relief. 

Suddenly the wind, which preceded the 
breaking of the storm, swept in and swept 
round his room, scattering his papers. 
This blast seemed to have a magical 
effect on Wilfred ; it gave him energy 
to long and to resolve — within five 
minutes of its coming he had determined 
to leave England next day. 

When the storm broke, as it seemed, 
right overhead, he did not heed and 
hardly heard it — he was writing a farewell- 
letter to Mrs. Southern, telling her of his 
plans, of his sufferings, of his intense 
weariness of life. To her he poured out 
the garnered-up bitterness of his soul — 
speaking of the mocking hoUowness of 
success which there was nothing to endear 



BOND AND FREE. 201 

— of the well-nigh intolerable pressure and 
burden of such a lonely existence as his. 
He said that the only hope he was con- 
scious of was a hope that he was still, 
however faintly, remembered at Beech 
Holmes ; and that the volumes which 
would accompany his letter — such as they 
were, he had poured his very life into 
them, he said — and which he begged Mrs. 
Southern to allow her daughter Felicia 
to accept — might be read with some little 
pleasure and interest there, and might 
bear some slight testimony to the grati- 
tude and affection with which the writer 
recalled happy days spent both there and 
in town with his kind friends, who were 
his only friends. 

Notices of Wilfred's books had been 
read at Beech Holmes before the books 
themselves arrived. The author had chosen 
that the copies intended for Felicia should 



202 BOND AND FREE. 

be bound after a fancy of his own, and 
this had occasioned some delay. 

His letter, expressing, she thought, feel- 
ings in such strong contrast with any he 
ought to have entertained, was a shock 
to Mrs. Southern; its morbid, thankless, 
weakly miserable tone jarred on her 
healthy mind. It was not, she said to 
Felicia, his indifference to success that 
pained her ; but that he showed himself un- 
grateful to the Giver of it, by indulging 
such feelings as those his letter expressed. 

Poor Felicia felt rebuked, abashed : lis- 
tening to her mother's condemnation, she 
stooped over her newly-arrived treasures to 
hide her burning cheeks and tearful eyes. 
In her heart pity contended with admira- 
tion—sorrow with triumph : her mother's 
words seemed to her stern, yet an inward 
consciousness of their partial truth humbled 
her painfully. 



BOND AND FREE. 203 

Mrs. Southern continued : — 

" I fear Wilfred Mason will, after all, 
prove more a warning than an example 
— a warning of the worthlessness and vanity 
of all gifts to one not reconciled with God 
and resigned to His will — instead of an 
example of the noble use of noble gifts, 
and of the power a courageous and God- 
fearing man has over what people call 
fate and circumstances. Instead of proving 
that a man may become great and good 
in spite of disadvantages of birth and parent- 
age, he will, I fear, be another victim to 
morbid, exaggerating apprehension of con- 
ventional prejudice. This is what I fear 
for him. He seems to me determined to 
be miserable : there is something childish 
in the way he harps upon his friendless- 
ness, and yet neglects to make any exertion, 
either to retain the friends he has, or to 
make himself new ones." 



204 BOND AND FREE. 

Mrs. Southern sometimes talked till she 
said rather more than she meant : this was 
likely to be the case now. But meeting 
a startled, imploring look from Felicia, who 
understood little except that Wilfred was 
blamed for not being happy, she added : — 

*^Do not look so grieved, dear child. I 
do not wish to be harsh — I do not mean 
to say that no allowances ought to be made 
for poor Wilfred, but ." 

*^ Dear mamma," Felicia interposed, in 
a soft, pleading, voice, ^'I think I should 
be very, very unhappy if I had no mother, 
no brother, no sisters — no one at all to love 
me. I do not think anything could make 
up to me for that — or that I could rejoice 
over any good fortune, if there were no 
one to rejoice with me. Then Wilfred says 
that he is ill. If he has no one to talk 
to, and is ill and unhappy, isn't it natural 
that he should tell you about it ? Eead 



BOND AND FREE. 205 

his books, mamma dear ; I think you will 
own he must have been brave and good 
while he wrote them. Can people who 
have no one to love them help being un- 
happy sometimes ? I am sure I could not." 

Felicia's eyes were full of tears — her 
hands lingered caressingly on Wilfred's 
volumes. 

^^ Part of my complaint against Wilfred 
is that he doesn't seek to have people to 
love him. But, Felicia, I hoped that my 
dear little daughter felt it impossible to 
be unhappy. Any one whose heart is with 
God, and whose will is His will, should 
feel it so." 

'^ I do not seem to know anything 
about being unhappy — I have never had 
anything to try me ; but, mamma, if 
sorrow were to come to me, ought it not 
to be easier to me to feel rightly, than 
to any one who had been less happy ? 



206 BOND AND FREE. 

Has not your love been a sort of proof 
to me of God's love ? Yet, if I were 
to lose you — oh, mamma! I cannot think 
of that ! " Her eyes seemed to widen in 
an effort to see the magnitude of such a 
loss. 

Mrs. Southern took Felicia into her arms, 
and said, soothingly: — 

"Perhaps I spoke a little hardly of 
Wilfred — his letter disappointed me greatly; 
he is so highly gifted — his nature has so 
much that is truly beautiful in it — that I 
grow angry and impatient with him for 
being less than altogether noble." 

A kiss closed the conversation. 

Everybody in the house read Wilfred's 
books before Felicia read them. They un- 
derstood her so little as to wonder at 
her want of eagerness. When free family 
discussion was busy with their contents, 
Felicia would slip quietly away. 



BOND AND FREE. 207 

At last, when the vohimes were all her 
own, when everybody else had finished 
reading and discussing them, she carried 
them off to her own little room, and 
lived in them there. Wilfred^s thoughts 
became her thoughts. Every word of his 
had a peculiar sacredness for her. Of his 
poems, there were some she was for ever 
saying over to herself She accepted all 
he wrote : some things she liked better 
than others, but she never thought of 
judging or comparing; and she did not 
love to listen when others did this — what 
she did not understand she was content to 
take on faith. 

Mrs. Southern had been the first to 
speak in admiration of Wilfred's books — 
to own that there was hardly a touch of 
bitterness or morbidness in them — -that the 
sentiments were noble, the language elo- 
quent, the style vigorous. Into those 



208 BOND AND FREE. 

books he had poured the health and 
strength gathered from Welsh sea-breezes, 
and from the ah^ of Welsh mountains — had 
poured all out with spendthrift haste, and 
had left himself completely bankrupt. 



209 



CHAPTEE XII. 

" 'Twere better not to breathe or speak, 
Than cry for strength, remaining weak, 
And seem to find, but still to seek. 

Moreover, but to seem to find 

Asks what thou lackest — thought resign'd, 

A healthy frame, a quiet mind." 

Wilfred carried a heavy weariness — 

very little expectation of enjoyment, or 

capacity for it, abroad with him. He 

spent the winter in Italy ; and from thence 

— because utter idleness was burdensome — 

he sent home various stories, sketches, and 

poems to the editor of the miscellany in 

which his first published tale had appeared. 

These things were almost all languidly 
VOL. I. P 



210 BOND AND FREE. 

imagined and listlessly executed ; there was 
no freshness or foreignness of atmosphere 
about them ; they were developments of 
ideas which had lain in his brain before 
he left London, feeble and half-stifled de- 
velopments — for his mind, unconsciously to 
himself, was ever receiving new impres- 
sions, and resented the forced labour of 
dealing with old things. 

He was disappointed by what he inter- 
preted as the want of suggestiveness of 
his life. Nothing seemed to him new or 
unfamiliar ; it was as if in a dream he 
were revisiting the scenes of some former 
existence, conscious that it was only in a 
dream, and yet unable to dissipate the 
dream-haze and wake to realities. 

He lingered abroad till — after a winter 
and summer had been spent in Italy, 
Switzerland, and Germany — the lowness of 
his funds warned him that it would be 



BOND AND FREE. 211 

prudent to turn homewards; as anything 
like steady application or regular work 
seemed impossible among unfamiliar scenes. 
October found him basking in the sun- 
shine on the deck of a Rhine steamboat; 
watching the shifting panorama of wooded 
or vine-clad, castle-crowned heights, and 
listening to the babble of German conver- 
sation. It happened, the season being so 
far advanced, that he was the only Eng- 
lishman on board. 

The alternations between the expression 
of high-flown sentiments — extravagant pro- 
fessions of love for their father-land, ex- 
travagant praises of the beauty of the 
glorious Ehine — and calls for butter-brods, 
coffee, wine, beer, fruit, and sausage- 
sandwiches, half amused, and half disgusted 
the fastidious Englishman : the smile on 
his lips was ertainly not a particularly 
amiable one. 

p2 



212 BOND AND FREE. 

At this period Wilfred greatly resembled 
Schiller, as we know him through Goethe's 
description of him. He was proud-looking 
in form, mien, and carriage ; only his eyes 
were soft — they were wonderfully soft : 
sometimes they seemed to be merely, with 
the most absolute humility, seeking for 
love ; mourning its want, or its incom- 
pleteness. 

At one of the prettiest spots on the 
river, the steamer had stopped to take in 
three persons who were awaiting it in a 
little boat. Wilfred, happening to stand 
near the ladder, naturally extended his 
hand to assist these passengers — a lady, a 
gentleman, and the lady's maid, to ascend it. 

The lady made use of the proffered 
hand ; she was passing on with a me- 
chanical '^Ich danke sehr/' while her maid 
rewarded the stranger's politeness by a be- 
witching smile, when the gentleman, who 



BOND AND FREE. 213 

came last, looking full at Wilfred, uttered 
an exclamation which made her turn. 
Meeting her eyes, Wilfred at once recog- 
nized her; immediately recalled how, when, 
and where they had met before : but he 
himself — bronzed, disguised by a foreign- 
looking growth of hair, and dressed well 
and suitably — was not immediately to be 
recognized by a person who had seen 
him but once, and had then hardly taken 
the trouble to look at him. 

^' Eleanour ! You have not forgotten your 
narrow escape at Abergwynn ! This is the 
gentleman who saved your life there." 

Miss Narpenth made full use of her 
large eyes before she spoke. At first she 
seemed to doubt the truth of her father's 
words. 

" Saved my life, and then ran away 
from our troublesome gratitude : T remem- 
ber," she said. " I have never been able to 



214 BOND AND FREE. 

get such another pony as my poor Moun- 
taineer ! '* 

"Not another who would peril your life 
by dashing into the sea when frightened ! 
You are certainly to be condoled with ! " 

Miss Narpenth coloured slightly — per- 
haps she had associations with that period 
which made her colour readily; and the 
expression of Wilfred's face was unpleasantly 
sarcastic. She went on to say — 

" You did not allow me the opportunity 
of personally expressing my gratitude to 
you in Wales. I offer you my hand now, 

Mr. . I do not think we ever knew 

your name." 

It was Wilfred's turn to blush; he did 
so, through his bronzed hue, as he an- 
swered, "The name of Mason must supply 
the blank Miss Narpenth leaves " 

Many years as he had borne this name, 
he still, in some moods, felt a pang of 



BOND AND FREE. 215 

shame when he gave it as his to any 
stranger ; knowing that his only right to 
it was that of possessing no other. He 
bowed somewhat low over the offered hand, 
and his blush passed unnoticed. 

When Miss Narpenth, assisted by her 
maid, had settled herself in a comfortable 
position — there had been a grand rising of 
a group of German students to make way 
for the handsome and distinguished-looking 
Englishwoman — Wilfred, who stood at a little 
distance, talking to her father, or rather, 
being talked to by him, looked at her with 
some curiosity. 

Miss Narpenth was a fair brunette, if 
that term be allowable. In her eyes, hair, 
and complexion there was a rich golden 
glow ; the warmer and more vivid the light, 
the more forcibly this was brought out ; it 
was a tone resembling that given to every- 
thing by the sunshine of late afternoon in 



216 BOND AND FREE. 

late August. Exposure to a summer's air 
and sun had now greatly heightened the 
brilliancy of this effect. At the same time, 
as Wilfred had seen, Miss Narpenth's was 
one of the faces from which emotion can 
blot out all life, colour, and beauty. The 
white, still face he remembered was not to 
be recognized as the same face he looked % 
at now ; save by the eyes, which were sin- 
gular : large, full without being prominent, 
and glowing, they suggested the idea of slum- 
bering fires — of a nature in which it would 
be far easier to kindle than to subdue re- 
sentment. 

As if to favour Wilfred's scrutiny, of 
which she seemed either unconscious or 
perfectly careless, Miss Narpenth laid aside 
her hat for a few moments — exposing thick, 
close coils of hair, not silky nor soft, and 
yet not coarse, but having an almost me- 
tallic strength and brightness ; in colour. 



BOND AND FREE. 217 

dark, yet with a strong inclination to tawny 
auburn. The forehead, on which this hair 
grew rather low, was smooth, white, and 
well-expanded ; but with brows of too heavy 
an arch, too nearly meeting over a nose, 
delicately formed, small and straight, the 
sensitive nostril of which seemed ready to 
express any passing emotion ; the mouth 
was in keeping with the heavy brows, too 
full-lipped and too large ; but the lips were 
soft and rosy, and their rare smile disclosed 
teeth dazzlingly white and perfectly formed. 
In spite of air and sunshine, the determined- 
looking chin, the blue-veined temples and the 
rather long throat, were of exquisite creamy, 
not snowy, fairness. Altogether, it was a 
perplexing face, with too many charms to be 
a very safe study. Apt to look sullen in 
repose, always ready to express haughty 
discontent, it could, nevertheless, arm itself 
with every fascination of beauty and in- 



218 BOND AND FREE. 

tellect ; lighting up with flattering interest, 
or softening to the expression of tender- 
ness, admiration, and love. It was a face 
that at its worst might look fiendish, at its 
best could never look angelic — a face that 
was handsome always, now and then beau- 
tiful ; but not with such beauty as an 
inspired painter would dream of giving to 
a saint or a Madonna. 

Miss Narpenth was rather tall, almost as 
tall as Wilfred; but when she did not re- 
member to be listless, the graceful activity 
of her movements testified to a harmony of 
proportion that prevented her being looked 
upon as either tall or short. Her dress 
had the grace of appropriateness, and was 
characterized by a neatness and complete- 
ness which placed it in strong contrast with 
that of most of the German women on board 
— many of whom resembled bundles of hete- 
rogeneous garments, surmounted by human 



BOND AND FREE. 219 

heads ; rather than properly built, merely 
clothed-upon women. 

From the moment she stepped on deck, 
Miss Narpenth was the cynosure of many 
eyes ; happening to drop a book of poems 
which she had with her, several hands were 
stretched out towards it. A tall, fair- 
haired, and somewhat wild-eyed young 
man, who was fortunate enough to secure 
it, presented it to her with an air of most 
profound respect; and then, on the strength 
of this introduction, tried to draw her into 
conversation. Poetry — English and German 
— was the subject he started. He did not 
find it difficult to interest Miss Narpenth — 
she was perfectly at home in German litera- 
ture ; while he himself was tolerably versed 
in that of England. He seemed to throw 
his whole heart and soul into the subject — 
quoting Goethe, Schiller, Uhland, Euckert, 
Geibel, and Chamisso freely and firily; and 



220 BOND AND FREE, 

wounding himself the while, as he believed 
irrecoverably, against the fine eyes, the 
brilliant smile, the varying colour and ex- 
pression of the '^ wunderschone, talentvolle 
Englanderinn." 

A blue-eyed Clarchen, to whom he had 
previously devoted himself, watched him 
with mild despair in her heart, and inno- 
cent tears in her wide eyes. Wilfred, 
catching snatches of the conversation as he 
paced the deck with Mr. Narpenth, was 
astonished at the animation and freedom of 
the dialogue carried on with a stranger ; 
and, while he admired Miss Narpenth's clever 
talk, and perfectly fluent and correct German, 
mentally accused her of a want of womanly 
reticence ; a want of that self-restraint which 
exercises a restraining power over others. 
When a bell rang, signifying that the mid- 
day table-d'hote awaited the passengers, the 
poetical young German was not behind his 



BOND AND FREE. 221 

countrymen in obeying the summons. The 
three English travellers were the last to 
enter the saloon, and Miss Narpenth was 
placed between Wilfred and her father. 

Amused at the fiercely-sentimental glances 
directed towards his neighbour from the far 
end of the table, Wilfred commented upon 
them to her ; adding, dryly, that she had 
seemed to find the young German 
interesting. 

"He is clever — rather a remarkable 
young man, I should think," Miss Narpenth 
answered. Then she said : — 

" Your tone makes me imagine that you 
find in that fact, of my having been 
interested by a stranger, something not in 
accordance with your notions of pro- 
priety. Is it so?'' 

" I should not presume to condemn any- 
thing in Miss Narpenth, or to express a 
doubt of the propriety of her conduct." 



222 BOND AND FREE. 

"You don't approve of a lady's allowing 
herself to be drawn into conversation by a 
young man to whom she has not been 
' introduced/ perhaps ? '' 

Wilfred made no answer to these scorn- 
fully uttered words ; and his companion 
asked, in the same tone — 

" Do you find life so very amusing that 
you can afford to throw away any chance 
of being entertained ? " 

"Has not Mife ' yet shown Miss Nar- 
penth a fairer side than that which it 
seemed to have presented to her when I 
saw her first ? " 

Miss Narpenth's painfully vivid blush made 
Wilfred feel that his question had been indis- 
creet — perhaps cruelly so. He did not ask 
pardon in so many words, but he bestowed 
one of the humblest glances of his soft 
eyes upon his neighbour. Her eyes just 
met it, and then drooped. 



BOND AND FREE. 223 

There was a brief silence. Miss Narpenth 
broke it by saying, in a different tone 
from that in which she had before spoken — 

'* I have one excuse to offer for hav- 
ing allowed myself to be interested in 
my conversation with a young man to 
whom I have not been introduced ; which 
is, that he spoke with enthusiasm of a book 
by an author whose writings interest me 
extremely. I was surprised that a foreigner 
should have met with it, but my friend 
says that he is but lately returned from 
London. Perhaps you do not read fiction ? " 

'' Rarely." 

" Have you seen a novel called ' Endur- 
ance and Resistance ? ' Its author has 
written a great deal in one of the first 
periodicals. He has also publislied a 
volume of short poems : I have them with 
me, and I shall be happy to lend the book 
to you if you do not know it already." 



224 BOND AND FREE. 

"I know the novel and the poems. 
Now, do you really so greatly admire that 
novel?" 

Wilfred looked into Miss Narpenth's eyes 
with a well-assumed expression of cold 
curiosity. 

"I do! — though you ask in quite an 
intimidating way. I think it most power- 
fully written, and its truth comes home to 
me in so many ways. I have a strong 
interest in all the author of that book 
writes, and a strong wish to know him per- 
sonally; I have never felt the same interest 
in any other living writer. But I do think 
that his novels and tales have one great 
defect — everything in them about love, and 
much in them about women, is so coldly 
ideal; the heroines do not in the least 
interest me — they are angels, and not 
women." 

" The defect you mention is a great one." 



BOND AND FREE. 225 

" Do you agree with me that it exists ? " 

'*No doubt you are right. I am in- 
clined to think highly of your powers of 
penetration." 

*^ What an unsatisfactory person you are ! 
I cannot tell whether you are laughing at 
me or whether you are serious. Do you 
know anything about the writer ? He seems 
to be a mysterious person. I have so much 
wished to see him, or even to hear about 
him, and I have not been able to do either. 
Do you know him ? " 

*^ No doubt he is, like other authors, to 
be heard of at his publisher's." 

''Do you know him?" persisted Miss 
Narpenth. 

** Intimately,'' Wilfred answered — his eyes 
bent on his plate as he spoke. 

" Pray tell me all you know of him ! " 

"Kather a difficult task!" Lifting his 
glance to Miss Narpenth's, Wilfred was 

VOL. I. Q 



226 BOND AND FREE. 

dangerously assailed by the sweet flattery 
of her genuinely eager interest. 

" What a frigid, sententious person you 
are !" she said. " It is evident my hero is 
no hero for you : perhaps he is a rival of 
yours ; or " 

She stopped suddenly — Wilfred looked up 
to ascertain the cause; again their eyes 
met; his shrank from the contact of hers, 
and so betrayed him. She blushed very 
vividly. 

There was an awkward silence. Miss 
Narpenth spoke first, quite softly and 
timidly — 

"If I have been rudely inquisitive, and 
have discovered what you wished to con- 
ceal, I beg your pardon. Have I dis- 
covered what you really desired should 
be a secret ? Are you displeased with 
me ? " The last question was asked in quite 
a humble tone of deprecation. 



BOND AND FREE. 227 

Wilfred felt it incumbent on him to try 
and put Miss Narpenth at her ease. He 
could not help feeling kindly towards one 
who had expressed so much interest in 
him, and so much admiration for his pro- 
ductions. Her face now, softened to hu- 
mility and sweetness, for the first time 
struck him as beautiful ; and her manner 
was pleasing, even fascinating, now that 
it was stripped of its assumed air of easy 
indifierence, and shadowed by that rever- 
ence which women are ' so apt to entertain 
for men gifted with literary power; while 
they so often withhold it from others who 
have more worthy and solid claims upon 
it. 

After watching Wilfred and Miss Nar- 
penth for some time during the conversa- 
tion, apparently of great mutual interest, 
which ensued, the young German presently 
rose abruptly and stormed from the saloon. 

Q2 



228 BOND AND FREE. 

He was by-and-by seen tearing up and 
down the deck, smoking furiously, and 
staring wildly heavenwards. The fair Eng- 
lishwoman, however, had no more attention 
to bestow on him ; and when he was at last 
convinced of this he returned to his former 
allegiance to the clear-eyed and easily-for- 
giving Clarchen. 

When evening came on Mr. Narpenth took 
refuge below early : but Miss Narpenth and 
"Wilfred paced the deck slowly to and 
fro — sometimes talking, but often pausing 
to lean over the side and note the calm 
beauty of the evening and the scene — 
long after daylight had quite departed. 

Wilfred and the Narpenths took up their 
quarters at the same hotel that night : 
Wilfred woke next morning with a new 
feeling — with a sense of having something 
to look forward to ; of having some fresh 
interest in life; of knowing that there was 



BOND AND FREE, 229 

some one near who took an interest in him. 
Miss Narpenth was gracious and gentle as 
on the previous evening — though he had 
fancied that her softened mood would be 
but of short duration. When he found 
that the Narpenths' route could not be 
his — as they designed spending some weeks 
in Paris, and he was obliged to hasten 
to London — he was greatly disappointed ; 
and yet he had a dim consciousness that 
it was best. So, with the blank feeling 
of a pleasure lost, came also a feeling of 
danger escaped. 

After a day or two spent together they 
parted. 

"We shall be in England in six weeks 
from this time," Mr. Narpenth said : "I 
have written my full address in town on 
this card ; you will hear of me there — 
even if we should be at Thorndon House. 
You say that you have no address to 



230 BOND AND FREE. 

give me, so you must visit us on our 
return. In six weeks, remember." 

" Unless you promise to do so, Mr. 
Mason, I have a feeling that we shall 
see nothing of you — that you disappear 
and reappear at pleasure ; that we may 
never be able to hunt you out. I think 
I have a claim upon you : you saved my 
life, and I think you ought to do some- 
thing towards rendering it ." She 

paused for a second or two, and then 
" endurable '' was the word she chose to 
use. She spoke with assumed lightness, 
but there was repressed earnestness in her 
beautiful eyes. 

" I shall eagerly desire to avail myself of 
Mr. Narpenth's kindness." 

Wilfred spoke what he felt at the time ; 
though his after-conduct gave the lie to 
what he said. Those words, his parting 
" auf wiedersehen," and the glance accom- 
panying both, occupied Miss Narpenth a 



BOND AND FREE. 231 

good deal more than a few days since 
she would have believed it possible any- 
such words or glances could. 

"A young man of singularly pleasing 
address, when he throws off his reserve ! ^' 
was Mr. Xarpenth's comment on Wilfred. 
His daughter did not contradict him. 

" I know I was in a very desperate and 
cynical mood when I saw Mr. Mason before/' 
she mused ; ** still I wonder he did not even 
then make some slight impression upon me. 
What singularly powerful eyes he has ! They 
are very peculiar in expression, seeming to 
contradict all the rest of his face; very 
peculiar in colour, too, so that when he 
lifts them up, it is quite a surprise to 
see that softly dark violet, where one 
expected to see black or brown ; and yet, 
peculiar as they are, I think — I fancy — that 
they remind me of some other pair of 
eyes — though whose I cannot tell.'^ 

Leaning back luxuriously in the corner 



232 BOND AND FREE. 

of a railway-carriage, Eleanour Narpenth 
thought a long while about these singu- 
larly beautiful eyes. 

" Papa ! did you say that Mrs. Lister 
was to meet us in Paris on our arrival?" 
she abruptly asked of her father, who sat 
opposite, busy with the paper. j 

"Mrs. Lister! Yes, in Paris, on our 
arrival. I hope you will suit each othei," 
he added, letting the paper drop upon Ms 
knees ; " you say you used to like her. I 
thought myself that there was something a 
little odd about her. She put several ques- 
tions to me, about different people, whi^h 
gave me the idea that she was trying to 
find out something about some person after 
whom she did not choose to ask directly ; 
but when I asked if she had any English 
friends, thinking I should like to obtain 
more information about her, she replied 
haughtily that she had lived so long abroad 



BOND AND FREE. 233 

that I must engage her only on the recom- 
mendation of her foreign friends, or not at 
all. She had previously admitted that my 
name was not unknown to her before she 
knew you. When or how she became 
acquainted with it I did not discover ; but 
she was evidently rather anxious that I 
should engage her. As I said before, I hope 
you will suit each other." 

His daughter appearing to take but slight 
and languid interest in the matter, Mr. 
Narpenth resumed his paper, and dismissed 
Mrs. Lister from his mind. 

Return to one's home and country may 
be very delightful when one has a home 
and friends to welcome that return ; but 
for Wilfred returning to London, after a 
year's absence, to be welcomed by nothing 
warmer or more cheering than a London 
fog, was a dismal afiair. 



234 BOND AND FREE. 

On his arrival in town, he found all MSS. 
he had forwarded from abroad awaiting 
him at the office of the journal to which 
they had been sent — without exception, 
condition, or explanation, they were declined 
by the editor. 

Having looked them through, the author 
straightway justified the editor's decision by 
burning them every one. 

"I have had my day — I have worn my- 
self out, or I never could have penned such 
feeble, worthless, mawkish stuff," was his 
comment, as he did so. '^ I suppose I have 
used up what good stuff there was in 
me,'' he added; "if so, what remains for 
me to do?" 

How he answered this question, how he 
dragged through that winter, it is not 
easy to say, nor pleasant to think. 

When the time came at which Mr. 
Narpenth had assured Wilfred that he 



BOND AND FREE. 235 

should be again in town, the fickle and 
careless Wilfred had lost the card on 
which Mr. Narpenth had written his ad- 
dress ; and had also utterly lost any incli- 
nation to follow up the acquaintance. 

"It is all very well to be admired 
and flattered by a clever and beautiful 
woman, like Eleanour Narpenth," he ad- 
mitted to himself, "but I have no fancy 
for being an object of her pity or pa- 
tronage. I can imagine that there are 
women whose loving pity, poured into the 
wounds of a man's pride and ambition, 
may act as healing balm ; but I am sure 
that Miss Narpenth is not one of these: 
her compassion would be, not oil upon 
troubled waters, but oil added to devour- 
ing flames. If I am ever again prosper- 
ous, I may then, perhaps, wish to seek 
her out, and further sun myself in the 
light of those really glorious eyes — but, 



236 BOND AND FREE. 

for the present, I would rather that they 
did not shine upon me." 

Perhaps this winter was the most mise- 
rable winter Wilfred ever spent; not that 
he sujffered from cold or hunger, or any 
outward privation — he did not. 

Writing down to the level of unin- 
structed minds, and seeking to gratify un- 
cultivated and unrefined tastes — writing to 
order for an inferior class of publications, 
under a strict promise of secrecy, which 
he knew to be worth little — he met with 
a success which he felt, and rightly felt, 
to be deeply humiliating. 

At this time he was conscious of a 
gradual, but sure, deterioration of his 
whole nature. He was humbled in his 
own eyes; and this humbling was of a de- 
grading, embittering kind. It made him 
moody and resentful; in time it might 



BOND AND FREE. 237 

make him coarse and callous. It seemed 
to him that it was now his very self 
that dragged him down, and not anything 
in his outward circumstances. Believing 
that he no longer believed in the possi- 
bility of happiness high and holy as he 
had dreamt of — or in the possibility of 
leading a high and holy ideal life with- 
out happiness — and never having realized 
the other possibility, that a life of exalted 
endurance and untiring effort may make 
its own happiness within itself, or find it 
in the happiness of others — he now aban- 
doned himself to that sceptical indifference 
which urges its victim to seize what plea- 
sure life offers, and not to pry too closely 
into its nature — to live as the world lives, 
and not set up an ideal standard, 
the straining to attain to which robs 
a man^s days of savour, his nights of 
rest, turns his hair grey before its time, 



238 BOND AND FREE. 

and makes existence a burden and a weari- 
ness. 

The devil, however, is not all-wise; for 
some souls he does not choose the right 
bait — some natures have not the aptitude for 
finding delight in the low pleasures of sin 
and sense — for finding any pleasure, delight, 
love, or rest, save in things so high that 
they do not hope ever to attain unto 
them. 

Happy are perhaps those unhappy ones 
who are ever driven on by the inward im- 
pulse ; who find no rest, no love, delight, 
nor pleasure on those soft, sunny, lower 
levels where they would fain lie down and 
take their ease ; but, though the flesh is 
weak, are compelled, by the merciless, un- 
resting spirit, to toil onwards towards the 
difficult hills, whose summits look cold, 
barren, and cheerless — on whose slopes the 
dear, cheery work-a-day sun does not 



BOND AND FREE. 239 

appear to shine, and in whose nooks and 
hollows no happy hearth-fires glow. 

Was Wilfred one of these unhappy happy 
ones ? 



240 



CHAPTER XIII. 

" A spot of dull stagnation witliout light 
Or power of movement, seem'd my soul 
'Mid onward sloping motions infinite 
Making for one sure goal." 

^* Dass ich werden diirfte wie dieser Tage- 
lohner einer ! '^ was the exclamation which 
broke from Wilfred, as he stood in the 
middle of a lonely country road; looking 
with an air half-intent, half-abstracted, at 
some objects by its side. These objects 
were a heap of half broken-up stones, on 
which lay a pick-axe and a labourer's 
jacket. He had maintained his contem- 
plative attitude for a considerable time. 



BOND AND FREE. 241 

After a glance to the right and left 
— showing him the unvaried solitari- 
ness of the white road which he could 
see stretching away far into the distance 
on either hand — he took off his coat and 
hat, placed them by the labourer's 
jacket, took up the pick-axe, and began 
to work. His tool invariably fell wide of 
the mark, and fragments of stone flew 
up into his face ; but he continued to 
work with unflagging energy, till he in- 
flicted a somewhat severe blow upon his 
leg. Then, the pick-axe still in his hand, 
he leant back among the brambles growing 
against a low wall of loose stones. 

"Not even fit for this," he said, 
gloomily. 

When the first sickening pain had 
passed off, however, he fell to work 
again. Finding himself rather less awk- 
ward now, he grew far too eager over 

VOL. I. R 



242 BOND AND FREE. 

his occupation to hear the approach of 
an easy-rolling carriage. As it passed 
between him and the sunshine he invo- 
luntarily looked up ; it contained two 
ladies — they both wore veils ; but, when 
one of them leant forward and bowed to 
Wilfred, through their light lacy screen, 
he believed that he recognized the eyes 
of Eleanour Narpenth. 

The carriage had passed before he had 
in any way returned the lady's saluta- 
tion ; Miss Narpenth having checked a 
momentary impulse to stop it, as she 
remembered that in the presence of the 
coachman and footmen it would not be 
quite pleasant to enter into familiar con- 
versation with a man whom they had seen 
breaking stones on the road. 

During the greater part of her drive 
Miss Narpenth meditated uneasily on the 
strangeness of this encounter; she speculated 



BOND AND FREE. 243 

whether Wilfred could possibly, by any 
chance or change of fortune, be "on the 
roads " professionally : this hypothesis being 
too disagreeable to be entertained, she de- 
cided to regard what she had seen as a 
mere freak of eccentric genius. 

Meanwhile Wilfred resumed his hat and 
coat, and limped from the spot ; when 
Miss Narpenth repassed it about an hour 
afterwards she saw the pick-axe wielded 
by its real owner. 

Sickness and consequent poverty had 
driven Wilfred from London itself; but he 
felt obliged to remain near it. He would 
not have chosen the neighbourhood of 
Thorndon as a retreat, had he known that 
the Narpenths had a house there. Yet it 
had been Mr. Narpenth's having once 
mentioned Thorndon House (as Wilfred now 
remembered his having done) which had 
given him that feeling of pleasant and 

r2 



244 BOND AND FREE. 

puzzling familiarity with the name of the 
village that had attracted him to it. 

It was not, therefore, altogether chance, 
though it was further still from being 
choice, that had led Wilfred into Miss 
Narpenth's vicinity. 

Feeling himself thoroughly unprosperous — 
beginning to believe himself to be that most 
miserable of human beings, one who has 
mistaken his vocation — fancying now that 
he had never possessed genius, or any- 
thing more than quite ordinary talent, 
and that his only inspiration had been his 
misery, and that fire and energy of youth 
which was already burnt out — he had 
come to Thorndon that he might breathe 
free, fresh air, while he resolved on his 
future course. 

The time was indeed come when he 
envied the labourer on the roads his 
definite day's work. Eesolved to break 



BOND AND FREE. 245 

free from the debasing slavery into which 
he had sold himself, and which he now 
loathed, he believed that he was prepared 
to subsist on dry bread, and to pass his 
nights without shelter, rather than return 
to it. As yet, however, he was not 
obliged to test his resolution so severely ; 
he carried a small portion of the spoils 
of the Egyptian taskmasters into his free 
estate. 

On this autumn afternoon Wilfred 
walked towards the cottage where he 
lodged with an irritated consciousness of 
the absurdity of the position in which 
Miss Narpenth had surprised him ; yet 
neither this unpleasant consciousness, nor 
his former distaste to being an object of 
her pity, was the chief reason which 'made 
him contemplate a flight from her neigh- 
bourhood : he felt both that at this turn 
in his life Miss Narpenth's influence would 



246 BOND AND FREE. 

be a baneful one, and that she was a 
woman who could not remain without 
influence over those with whom she came 
in contact. Wilfred was indolent, however; 
he contented himself with resolving to 
avoid the high-road, where he had been 
seen by Miss Narpenth ; he consoled him- 
self with the idea that the humbleness of 
his retreat — a common labourer's dwelling 
— ensured him against discovery — how 
should she even know that he was living 
at or near Thorndon ? 

But Miss Narpenth was not to be 
easily eluded : enquiries set on foot in the 
village soon made her acquainted with the 
fact that a strange gentleman had for 
some time lodged at the cottage of a 
widow Greenman. 

Within two days of the encounter on 
the road Wilfred received an invitation to 
dine at Thorndon House — an invitation so 



BOND AND FREE. 247 

cleverly worded that his best feelings 
seemed to make it impossible for him to 
refuse it ; besides which, he thought that 
there would be something ignominious and 
cowardly in doing so. He could leave 
Thorndon shortly after having availed him- 
self of this one invitation, without there 
being anything particularly ungracious in 
his conduct. 

" Where is Thorndon House ? " he enquired 
of the woman of the cottage. 

" Over yon, sir ; you may see the 
smoke through the trees. It's Squire Nar- 
penth's ; Tve heard tell he's got as big 
a house in London, and another in 
Wales — ^he's a banker, and main rich, I 
fancy ! " 

So the great house among the trees — 
from which he had often watched the 
up-curling smoke as he lounged away his 
weary days on the low-wooded hill near 



248 BOND AND FREE. 

the cottage — was the dwelling of Eleanour 
Narpenth ! 

A review of his wardrobe showed Wil- 
fred that he had clothes in which he 
should be quite presentable ; more espe- 
cially as he knew that any shortcomings 
from the standard of present fashion would 
be regarded by Miss Narpenth, as no doubt 
the stone-breaking had been regarded — 
merely as an outbreak of the " eccentricity 
of genius." 

" Genius ! " Wilfred repeated, as he sat 
in his miserable little room, resting his head 
on his hands, and with his eyes fixed on 
Miss Narpenth's note. " Genius ! — she be- 
lieves that I have it, and I dreamt so 
once. How far off those days of delirious 
delight and illusion are ! I am still a young 
man, not thirty yet, and I seem to have 
had my day — to have lived my life. How 
must I fill up the years to come ? How do 



BOND AND FREE. 249 

men who never had the life I have lost, fill 
up their years — years made up of such a 
weary multitude of days ? Most men have two 
lives — one the sweetener of the other : two 
lives, one the outward bread-winning life, the 
other the sacred family life — the life in others 
dearer than themselves — their wives and chil- 
dren. If it might ever be thus with me ! I 
could, I think, be very happy doing very 
humble work, if — ^" 

Here thought grew very vague ; but pre- 
sently he continued: — 

'' Will the man whose life stands between 
me and the possibility of such happiness 
live till the knowledge his death gives me 
is valueless? Yet what can that knowledge 
profit me ? He said, ^ it was not well that 
you should be branded with your father's 
name/ Branded! Perhaps it is well that 
bitter word escaped him ; or I might have been 
tempted to pray for his death. No doubt 



250 BOND AND FREE. 

the bitter word was a just word — he hated 
my father, but he never lied. Well ! I 
must just live on with what patience I 
may. Life may be long, but each day 
shortens it. Each night that falls blots out 
something from the weary sum of time. 
Happiness, that dream and desire of my 
youth, flies from me further and further, 
and I lose even my visionary belief in 
her; and yet," he added, raising his head, 
and sudden fire flashing through the haze 
of his languid eyes, " I shall surely know 
her before I die." 

Straying out into the sun presently, 
his craving for companionship led him to 
the hedges, where the village children were 
picking blackberries : he passed an hour 
or two in helping them, hooking down the 
branches above their reach, and greatly 
aiding to fill their baskets. When a little 
girl belonging to a neighbouring cottage 



BOND AND FREE. 251 

got badly scratched, and had to be carried 
home to her mother, Wilfred undertook the 
charge of her ; then, finding it was late 
enough to begin preparing for his visit to 
Thorndon House, he did not return to the 
blackberrying party. 

To his own surprise, he found that he 
anticipated pleasure from his visit: he was 
tired of himself; tired of his rough lodging 
and coarse fare — tired of seeing only homely 
faces, and of hearing only homely speech. 
He was inclined to seize any kind and degree 
of pleasure that offered ; without too curiously 
examining whether it appealed to sense or 
spirit. 

Thorndon House was a large, square, 
ordinary-looking British mansion ; sur- 
rounded by smooth lawns, trim shrub- 
beries, well-kept carriage-drives, and well- 
gravelled paths — all enclosed within a high 
wall, and sheltered at the back by some 



252 BOND AND FREE. 

finely-grown elms. It was furnished with 
admirably-stocked greenhouses and hot- 
houses ; the flower-beds glowed with au- 
tumn flowers ; everything had a modern, 
highly-preserved, prosperous look. Nothing 
he saw could have reminded Wilfred of 
Beech Holmes ; it could only have been the 
force of contrast that sent his thoughts to 
that picturesquely-beautiful and ruinous 
place. 

Long afterwards, to recall his feelings as 
he ascended the steps and waited at the hall 
door of Thorndon House that day — to recall 
the impressions he then received from un- 
familiar things which were destined to become 
so familiar — was like recalling a dream. 

Wilfred was ushered into a large and 
empty drawing-room ; facing south-west it 
was full of warmth, colour, light, and 
fragrance : flowers, pictures, statuettes, 
richly -bound books and richly-coloured dra- 



BOND AND FREE. 253 

peries seemed to blend into a general at- 
mosphere of subdued beauty — at least so 
it struck one much accustomed to white- 
washed walls, or to the various ugliness 
and dinginess of cheap lodgings. 

His soft exclamation ^^ Ah ! " was a long 
drawn breath of pleasure, as he looked 
round the apartment, inhaled the perfumed 
air, felt the thick soft carpet beneath his 
feet, and watched the late sunlight stream- 
ing in. 

One of the windows stood open ; near it 
was a small inlaid table, before which was 
placed an easy chair ; on the table was a 
piece of delicate embroidery, with a needle 
in it, as if it had been just thrown 
down ; also a writing-case, a vase of 
splendid roses, and one or two books. 
Wilfred approached this table reverently — 
to recoil as from a snake among flowers, 
on finding that an open volume, half-con- 



254 BOND AND FREE. 

cealed by the work lying on it, was a 
copy of his poems — the same that Miss 
Narpenth had had with her abroad. 

'* A trap laid for an author's vanity — 
she must be tired of them by this time ! " 
Muttering this to himself he smiled con- 
temptuously. 

Miss Narpenth entering at this moment, 
Wilfred met her with a manner of cold and 
guarded reserve. She noticed this; after 
her first frank greeting she coloured, 
glanced inquiringly at his grave face, and 
then her manner, too, became somewhat 
formal. 

As she had appeared on first coming 
into the room, a bright smile of pleasure 
and welcome on her lips and in her eyes, 
Wilfred had thought her even more strik- 
ingly handsome than he remembered to 
have thought her before. Dressed to 
perfection — as regarded taste and fashion, 



BOND AND FREE. 255 

though perhaps too richly for the occasion 
— no doubt she impressed him the more 
from the fact that his eyes had starved 
upon rustic awkwardness and coarseness 
long enough to have an unnaturally keen 
appetite for cultivated grace and beauty. 
Miss Narpenth, too, seemed in such per- 
fect harmony with everything surrounding 
her, that it appeared as if the " central 
idea" of all this luxury must have been 
wanting before she came into the room. 

When the first greetings were over, 
and Wilfred and his hostess were both 
seated, they felt at a loss to know what 
to say : remarks about the weather and 
the neighbourhood sounded absurd to Elea- 
nour, when there were so many subjects 
of interest on which she longed to question 
her companion. 

Wilfred broke a short silence by say- 
ing:— 



256 BOND AND FREE. 

" Till you drove past me the other day, 
and did me the honour of bowing to me, 
I did not know that you lived in this 
place ; though afterwards I remembered that 
I might have known it. I had been 
puzzled to understand what association 
could make the name of Thorndon familiar 
to me." 

^* Perhaps you owe my greeting entirely 
to my surprise. I think it would only 
have been properly dignified if I had 
affected to have forgotten a gentleman 
who has shown so very little anxiety to 
be remembered." 

" Believe me, that when we parted at 
Cologne I had every intention of availing 
myself of your father's kind hospitality — 
every desire to do so. On my return to 
town, unforeseen circumstances arose which 
interfered with the fulfilment of this intention. 
The loss has so evidently been entirely my 



BOND AND FREE. 257 

own, and the obstacles to the renewal of 
a pleasant intercourse were of so distaste- 
ful a kind, that I feel more inclined to 
claim Miss Narpenth's commiseration than 
to solicit forgiveness by making apologies 
which imply a consciousness of wilful 
transgression — of having sinned against 
her, instead of having only mortified my- 
self" 

The icy composure of Wilfred's manner 
as he made this speech repressed any ex- 
pression of that commiseration for which 
it pretended to call. Miss Narpenth felt 
wonderfully little at her ease : it was a 
relief to her when her father arrived — 
rather late, as he explained, because, in 
obedience to Eleanour's instructions, he had 
come round by Wilfred's quarters ; to as- 
certain if he had remembered his engage- 
ment at Thorndon House— ^^ students and 
authors being proverbially forgetful of such 

VOL. I. S 



258 BOND AND FREE. 

sublunary matters as dinner engagements." 

After having welcomed his guest very 
cordially, Mr. Narpenth turned to the 
table by the window. Not seeing anyone 
there, he asked : — 

" Where is Mrs. Lister ? " 

" I had a message from her while I 
was dressing to say that she begged to 
be excused from appearing at the dinner- 
table ; as she was suffering from severe 
nervous headache." 

" Has she had it all day, do you sup- 
pose ? " 

" She appeared as well as usual at 
lunch-time. It seems almost as if Mr. 
Mason had been guilty of producing her head- 
ache. I happened to bring your poems 
downstairs this afternoon," Miss Narpenth 
added, turning to Wilfred ; " when I 
left the room, Mrs. Lister, who had not 
seen them before, was reading them very 



BOND AND FREE. 259 

intently. She had not then complained of 
indisposition." 

Dinner was announced as ready. Wil- 
fred, glad to exonerate Eleanour from the 
sin of having left, that book open, offered 
her his arm with a more friendly expres- 
sion than he had yet shown her. After 
some slight speculation in his own mind, 
he decided rightly that this Mrs. Lister 
must be Miss Narpenth's duenna, or dame- 
de-compagne. 

Accustomed for sometime to partake with 
what appetite he might of clumsily-prepared 
and roughly-served food, Mr. Narpenth's 
dining-room and dining-table appointments 
struck Wilfred as epicurean in their refined 
luxury and elegance. 

The twilight was shut out by crimson 
curtains ; the small oval dining-table, drawn 
near a clear-burning fire, but protected from 
it by a screen of plate-glass, had nothing on 

s2 



260 BOND AND FREE. 

it but pleasantly-shaded lights, glass, plate, 
china, and a large vase of flowers ; the 
dishes were carved at the sideboard, and 
handed round by a noiseless footman, as- 
sisted by a good-looking maid-servant. The 
host being free from cares of carving, and 
the hostess from anxiety as to the sym- 
metrical arrangement of the dishes, con- 
versation flowed on evenly and pleasantly. 

To a question from Wilfred as to whether 
they had been abroad this year, Mr. Nar- 
penth answered: — 

" Eleanour did not care to go away 
from Thorndon ; she said she was tired of 
travelling and tired of ' furrin parts,' and 
that she should like to try a summer and 
autumn spent quietly in the country." 

"And have you enjoyed the change ? 
Has the experiment proved a successful 
one ? " Wilfred asked Miss Narpenth. 

" During the last six months I have 



BOND AND FREE. 261 

perhaps yawned more than in all my life 
before : that is answer sufficient, I think." 

" My daughter is a spoilt child, and very 
hard to please ! " 

'^ The surprise your occupation of the 
other day caused me was a delightfully 
novel sensation, I assure you, Mr. Mason. 
I feel deeply grateful to you for it.'' 

" What ! the occupation, of stone-breaking ? 
How came that about ? " questioned Mr. 
Narpenth, laughingly. 

•^ I am in want of a profession," Wil- 
fred gravely replied, " and I was trying 
my qualifications for that of a roadman. 
I only discovered disqualifications : I am 
still slightly lame from a blow I inflicted 
upon my knee." 

" Eleanour can hardly afford to laugh at 
you," her father remarked. *^ Looking out 
of my window, just after daybreak one 
summer morning, I saw her digging vigo- 



262 BOND AND FREE. 

rously in the vegetable garden at the back 
of the house — with what object do you 
suppose ? '^ 

'^ Papa ! I thought you promised me not 
to tell that story ! " 

'' Did I ? I had forgotten ; but I did 
not begin till the servants were gone. 
Can you guess her motive, Mr. Mason ? 
She had been struck with the cheerful, 
contented look of some women who work 
in the fields close by : she wished to see 
if to work meant to be cheerful and con- 
tented ! " 

" What was the result of your exploit ? " 
Wilfred asked, looking at Miss Narpenth 
with more interest than he had felt in her 
yet. 

"The results were sore hands, stiff arms 
and shoulders, intense tiredness for the rest 
of the day (I do not know though that it 
was an unpleasant kind of tiredness), and. 



BOND AND FREE. 263 

worst of all, a soiled dress, the state of 
which greatly excited the curiosity of my 
maid. I chose that early hour, because 
it was real hard work I wanted to try, 
and I wished to elude the comments of 
the servants' hall — ^but that is an impos- 
sible thing to do. Do you remember what 
Thackeray says in 'Vanity Fair' of the 
Heimgericht held in the servants' hall. I 
suppose it is true that we are all slaves 
to some one thing or person; yet I should 
think that you, Mr. Mason, are an ex- 
ception to this rule : you must be enviably 
free — free to be and do what you like, and 
to go where you like." 

'* Is it not generally the case that those 
who are not slaves to others, and to things 
external, are apt to be slaves to something 
within themselves? Freedom is a thing we 
all talk about, and of which none of us 
know anything." 



264 BOND AND FREE. 

Miss Narpenth did not answer ; the blush 
that had been called into her face by her 
father's story was slow to fade. She soon 
rose to go to the drawing-room. Wilfred, 
holding the door open for her, felt a sense 
of pleasure in observing her stately grace — 
a thrill of novel pleasure from the contact 
of her rustling dress, as she passed him, and 
from the glance and smile with which she 
thanked him. 

'' You take no wine, I see, Mr. Mason, 
and you will, perhaps, prefer having coffee 
in the drawing-room. I should like you 
just to look at a few of Eleanour's paintings ; 
may I trouble you to follow me ? " 

Mr. Narpenth led the way to an apart- 
ment of very studio-like appearance ; in it 
there were a good many framed pictures — 
some of them being copies, some from 
original sketches — and several unframed 
canvases, but all were turned with their 



BOND AND FREE. 265 

faces to the wall : though there was an 
unfinished picture on the easel, the room 
showed no signs of recent work. 

" I do not pretend to be any great judge 
of pictures ; but of course a man must 
pick up some knowledge about them, as 
about other thhigs," Wilfred said, after a 
close scrutiny of one or two of Miss 
Narpenth's productions. 

*' And how do these strike you ? " 

" As showing a great deal of well directed, 
original talent. Has Miss Narpenth worked 
on this" — pointing to the picture on the 
easel — ^' recently ? " 

" She has not ,touched a canvas for 
several years ; she gave up painting during 
the last summer we spent in Wales — the 
year when we first, and so opportunely, 
made your acquaintance. I am very anxious 
to see her take up her brushes again ; 
their use was a great resource and amuse- 



266 BOND AND FREE. 

ment — and want of occupation is the great 
curse of young women's lives now-a-days, 
I thmk." 

" I have ventured to take Mr. Mason 
into your studio, Eleanour," Mr. Narpenth 
said, as they joined his daughter in the 
drawing-room. 

''It seems to me, Miss Narpenth, that 
your copies are much more carefully exe- 
cuted than your original works," Wilfred 
remarked, for the sake of breaking an awk- 
ward silence ; which seemed to be one of 
displeasure on the lady's part, and of ap- 
prehension on her father's. v 

" Is not that very natural ? " 

''Perhaps — ^if it arise from diffidence as 
to the merits of your own compositions. 
May I hope some day by daylight to be 
allowed to look through your folios of 
sketches? I shall then expect to see 
new things, which have always more in- 



BOND AND FREE. 267 

terest for me than have the most perfect 
copies of old ones." 

"You forget that Hhere is nothing new 
under the sun/ " 

" I remember that we are none of us ac- 
quainted with a millionth part of what 
lies under the sun ; and as each nature has 
individuality, power to perceive something 
not to be perceived by other natures, and 
— if it is gifted with power of expression — 
to produce something not to be produced 
by other natures, may we not continually 
learn new things one from the other? 
Do not our most familiar thoughts some- 
times seem strange to other minds ; and 
the facts of other men's experience appear 
to us as fiction when first presented to 
ours ? " 

" But do you think that every nature has 
a distinctive individuality ? " 

" I do not know why we should doubt 



268 BOND AND FREE. 

it — why we should consider spirit likely 
to be less varied in its manifestation than 
matter — why we should not believe in 
infinite differences of souls, as well as in 
infinite differences of bodies. Can you 
imagine the existence of another being 
with sympathies so perfectly one with 
your own, that were it possible to ex- 
change natures and retain self-conscious- 
ness (the consciousness of your former 
self) you would not experience a sense of 
all-pervading strangeness ? " 

Eleanour passed her hand over her 
brow in a laughing attempt to smooth 
out the thought- wrinkles. 

*^ I cannot follow you,^' she said. " ^ Take 
some one else's nature, and yet retain 
one's own self-consciousness ! ' " 

"I am not surprised that you cannot 
conceive the possibility of the impossible," 
Wilfred said, laughing. ^' All mysticism 



BOND AND FREE. 269 

apart, the fact is that I wish to be per- 
mitted to look through Miss Narpenth's 
sketches, and expect to receive much plea- 
sure from doing so/' 

"Look in to luncheon to-morrow," Mr. 
Narpenth suggested. 

Wilfred's eyes sought for Eleanour's per- 
mission. 

" I shall be happy to show you my 
poor performances if you will do so ; and I 
can then introduce you to the lady of whom 
you have heard us speak to-day — Mrs. 
Lister. She is an interesting person; and 
I often fancy must have a history, which, 
if you could find it out, might form a 
good subject for a novel." 

"I do not think I have yet acquired 
the habit of taking a merely professional 
interest in my fellow-creatures," Wilfred 
replied, coldly. 

"By-the-bye, my dear, do you know 



270 BOND AND FREE. 

if Mrs. Lister is better ? " asked Mr. 
Narpenth. 

"She is rather better. 1 told Ann to 
enquire when she took her up some tea. I 
daresay a night's rest will set her all right." 

Then, conscious that something in her 
last speech to Wilfred had been distasteful 
to him, Miss Narpenth devoted herself to 
the endeavour of effacing the bad impres- 
sion it had made. She turned the con- 
versation to places they had both visited, 
and works of art they had both seen 
abroad; in speaking of the latter, she ex- 
cited Wilfred's admiration by her discrimi- 
nating appreciation of their merits. She 
not only entered into the subtlest refine- 
ments of his criticism ; but sometimes, 
taking the initiative, she showed either 
that she went beyond him in enthusiasm, 
or that her taste was more highly culti- 
vated. When she spoke of scenes and 



BOND AND FREE. 271 

objects of natural beauty, however, she 
pleased her listener less ; with these she 
seemed to have no inward sympathy, and 
all she said in their praise sounded forced 
and superficial. 

It was very late when Wilfred rose to 
go ; but even then he seemed reluctant to 
depart, and Eleanour knew how to enchain 
him longer. For the last two hours the 
conversation had been a Ute-a-t^te. Mr. 
Narpenth had been dozing over the paper. 
Eleanour sat near the centre lamp, toying 
with some work ; Wilfred, lounging near 
her in a low, luxurious chair, had watched 
the busy idleness of her beautiful hands, 
and the slipping to and fro of the brace- 
lets on her smooth white arms, with a 
kind of indolent fascination ; sometimes he 
forgot to talk, and had to be roused by a 
glance from her brilliant eyes, or a few 
sparkling words from her lips. 



272 BOND AND FREE. 

Even after he had once said "good-night/' 
he lingered ; leaning on the back of his chair. 

" The scenes of our first, second, and 
third meeting differ widely ! " he said, as 
his eyes returned from a circuit of the 
room to its attractive centre. " Have 
you any sketches of the Welsh coast near 
Abergwynn ? " 

" Only some very early ones. I had 
given up sketching before that strange 
meeting of ours; and between that summer 
and a summer we passed at Abergwynn, 
when I was not much more than a child, 
I was at school abroad." 

Miss Narpenth coloured deeply as she 
spoke — why, Wilfred could not understand. 

^^ If you ever paint from memory, that 
bay; overhung by lowering clouds; with 
wild surf breaking on its sandy curve ; and 
the dismal beauty of the plain stretching 
between the sea and the hills " 



BOND AND FREE. 278 

"Abergywnn offers fine subjects without 
doubt," Miss Narpenth broke in abruptly; 
"but I have given up painting. At 
least " 

Wilfred waited for the end of this sen- 
tence; but Ele.anour drooped her head over 
her work, and did not finish it. 

The small voice of a French clock just then 
made itself heard, striking twelve; Wilfred, 
at last, really departed. Mr. Narpenth, ac- 
companying him to the house-door, re- 
minded him of his promise to come and 
see Eleanour's sketches next morning ; add- 
ing, "If you can revive her interest in 
painting, I really shall feel obliged to 

you." 

The door was closed after Wilfred. He 
found himself alone; under a clear, star- 
lit sky: but in spite of the coolness and 
silence of night the influences of Thorndon 
House lingered about him — those of nature 

VOL. I. T 



274 BOND AND FREE. 

did not penetrate through the atmosphere 
these made. 

Eeaching his cottage, it seemed more 
than usually redolent of unsavoury odours, 
those of onions and stale tobacco pre- 
dominating ; and to-night these things affected 
him more than usual — they greatly offended 
and disgusted him. His small, low sleep- 
ing-room, with its musty smell, seemed stifl- 
ing. He flung the lattice open with a 
violence that shook out several loosened 
panes of glass ; then, bending his head over 
some plants, a heliotrope, and a rose-scented 
geranium that stood on his sill, he closed 
his eyes, and allowed himself to think of 
Eleanour Narpenth — of her grace, and of her 
soft graciousness for him ; of the elegance 
and luxury by which she was so fittingly 
surrounded. 

The night air was chill ; when by-and- 
by he lifted up and drew in his head. 



BOND AND FREE. 275 

opening his eyes to the meanness of his 
poor room — illumined by the dirty light of a 
candle flaring smokily, and guttering into 
the already grease-spotted candlestick — he 
experienced a very unpleasant revulsion of 
feeling. 



t2 



276 



CHAPTER XIV. 

" Was man GescMck nennt, lasst sicli nicht versohnen." 

Wilfred passed the next morning in look- 
ing forward to the afternoon. Restlessness 
had taken the place of listlessness — a sign, 
perhaps, that life had some unwonted in- 
terest; for those who fear nothing, hope 
nothing, and expect nothing, do not suffer 
from restlessness. 

As he walked up the carriage-drive to 
Thorndon House, his glance swept the draw- 
ing-room windows, and showed him a lady- 
seated near one of them — not Miss Nar- 



BOND AND FREE. 277 

penth he found, when he was ushered into 
the apartment; but a lady taller than Miss 
Narpenth, dressed in black, with a com- 
plexion of almost startling pallor. She rose 
as he entered — they exchanged bows, and 
he was struck with a certain eagerness, 
almost amounting to wildness, in her eyes. 

Mrs. Lister — for so he concluded this lady 
was called — begging him to be seated, said 
she would tell Miss Narpenth, who she be- 
lieved was in the garden, of his arrival. 
She laid the morning paper before him and 
crossed the room. 

The servant having announced him as 
"Mr. Mason," Wilfred was rather surprised 
that Mrs. Lister paused before she reached 
the door, and asked — 

" Who shall I tell Miss Narpenth desires 
to see her ? " 

Wilfred, from a consciousness that his 
Christian name alone was rightfully his, had 



278 BOND AND FREE. 

acquired a habit of using it on most occa- 
sions — he did so now. 

"Mr. Wilfred Mason — but I am sorry to 
trouble you so far/' he answered. 

A suppressed cry, as of pain, startled 
him. He saw Mrs. Lister stagger, and clutch 
the handle of the door. In a moment he 
was by her side, and her clutch was trans- 
ferred to his offered arm. She turned her 
face to his, looking at him with eyes that 
were at first sightless from the intensity of 
hungry effort to see — while the working of 
her features bore witness to some sharp 
inward struggle, as between death and life. 
When the mist cleared from before her 
vision, and she met Wilfred's alarmed and 
sympathising look, she tried to smile. 

"It is nothing. I struck my foot — the 
pain made me feel faint — thank you ! '' she 
said. 

She released his arm from her grasp, and 



BOND AND FREE. 279 

passed quickly out of the door which he 
held open for her. He returned to his 
seat, and to the perusal of the paper. 
In talking with Mr. Narpenth yesterday, 
he had found it inconvenient to be so 
entirely ignorant as he was on all topics 
of public interest ; he had resolved to 
give some attention to these things for 
the future ; but now he could not fix his 
thoughts on the columns, so much did 
the strangeness of Mrs. Lister's look and 
manner occupy him. 

It was not long before Miss Narpenth 
■entered through the conservatory, her hands 
and the hat which hung over her arm full 
of flowers. When she freed a hand to 
offer it to Wilfred, a shower of late au- 
tumn roses fell at her feet. Being young 
and poetical, it would have been odd if 
he could have assisted in picking up the 
scattered treasures without finding some- 



280 BOND AND FREE. 

thing pretty and appropriate to say about 
the flowers and the fair culler of them. 
His compliments were received with digni- 
fied pleasure. 

" May I keep this one rose ? " he 
asked, as he lifted the last — a flower of 
a peculiarly brilliant crimson, and of 
a rich and powerful perfume — from the 
ground. 

"I have a sort of right to it," he 
added, having received permission to retain 
it — "for it has wounded me. Has it any 
distinctive name ? '' 

Eleanour smiled rather consciously. 

"Our old gardener believes it to be a 
variety of his own introduction," she an- 
swered, evasively. 

" No doubt he has named it then ? " 

"He begged my permission to call it 
the 'Eleanour Narpenth.'" 

"Your namesake has wounded me rather 



BOND AND FREE. 281 

deeply, Miss Narpenth," Wilfred said, ex- 
amining his finger. 

"I think the gardener paid me a doubt- 
ful compliment — for the tree is particularly 
thorny, and does not flower freely. Have 
you really done more than prick your 
finger, Mr. Mason ? Eeally hurt it ? " 

"Indeed I have; a very large thorn is 
safely lodged in my flesh." 

" Shall I give you a needle to try and 
extract it ? " she asked, and carefully se- 
lected one from a case she took from 
Mrs. Lister's open work-box. 

" May I venture to ask you to extract 
it for me?" he asked, holding out his 
hand towards her. 

She took the hand in hers, examined the 
wound, and drew him towards the light, 
saying, as she did so : — 

" Surely you have a right to ask me 
to do more than such a trifling service 



282 BOND AND FREE. 

for you, seeing that I owe my life to 
your courage and presence of mind. I 
do not think I am of a quite thankless 
nature ! " 

Perhaps her hand was not quite firm, 
or his trembled ; at all events, the thorn 
was not easily extracted. Eleanour looked 
up once to see if she were giving him 
much pain ; but there was a power in the 
intent glance that met hers which pre- 
vented her from repeating the experiment. 
It is certain that, after this exchange of 
looks, it was her hand which trembled. 

The thorn had at last been extracted, 
and Wilfred was tendering his thanks to 
the fair operator, when Mrs. Lister came 
into the room ; her quick glance seemed 
immediately to take note of Eleanour's 
blushing cheeks, and of the soft, perhaps 
involuntary, flattery of Wilfred's eyes. 

Miss Narpenth, with a manner less com- 



BOND AND FREE. 283 

posed than usual, introduced Wilfred to her 
friend Mrs. Lister ; and then they went into 
an adjoining room — a small breakfast par- 
lour — to luncheon. Mrs. Lister spoke but 
little while they sat at table ; and when 
they returned to the drawing-room, and 
Miss Narpenth's portfolios were brought in, 
she seated herself by a distant window, and 
did not, even by a look, take part in the 
conversation that ensued. This silent pre- 
sence weighed upon Wilfred. At first Elea- 
nour also seemed to feel it a restraint ; 
but, after a time, she grew too much in- 
terested in her companion to remember Mrs. 
Lister, or any strangeness she might have 
noticed in her demeanour. 

"I find that a poet is a most pleasant 
critic," Miss Narpenth said, by-and-by : " your 
imagination, Mr. Mason, supplies the defi- 
ciencies of my work — you discover beauties 
that cannot exist in the sketches themselves — 



284 BOND AND FREE. 

because I did not perceive them in nature, 
and, therefore, did not try to represent 
them/' 

"I do not think that your ' because ' 
proves anything, Miss Narpenth. I think 
that a sketch or picture from the hand 
of a true artist will always have things 
in it that he was not conscious of trying 
to put into it— beauties and truths which 
are first seen and interpretated by intelli- 
gent criticism. Should not Art always be, 
to some extent, unconscious — though to 
say so may seem paradoxical? These com- 
panion sketches of yours, which I see you 
have called, ^Before the Storm' and * After 
the Storm,' appear to me to be beauti- 
fully felt, and wonderfully true to nature. 
It was daring of you to take exactly the 
same scene, and represent it under the 
two aspects ; but I think the result has 
justified the daring. One feels a sense of 



BOND AND FREE. 285 

oppression ; a sense of something awful 
and threatening in the stillness, looking 
at the first drawing : while this other, 
with its pure, fair, tender tints ; with its 
waters sinking to calm now after their 
late troubling ; pervaded, as it seems to 
me, by a kind of penitent serenity — as if 
nature repented herself of her late passion 
— makes one grow quiet and peaceful as 
one gazes." Lowering his voice, he added, 
"One would almost long to have a fierce 
storm of trouble break over one's life were 
one assured that it would be followed by 
such profound and delicious calm — or to 
see a beloved face lowering with anger 
and distorted by passion, might it surely 
melt and soften afterwards to an expres- 
sion of so exquisitely mild and beautiful a 
penitence." 

Eleanour sighed "You will make me 
in love with my own work; you will wake 



286 BOND AND FREE. 

up my dead zeal — if dead thiDgs can wake 
_and if ." 

" May I venture to enquire why you 
gave up the use of so beautiful a gift ? " 
Wilfred asked — when she did not complete 
her sentence. She coloured vividly, but 
did not look altogether displeased with the 
questioner. A quick, involuntary glance 
which she turned towards Mrs. Lister made 
Wilfred fancy that had they been alone 
his curiosity would have been gratified ; 
but in this he was mistaken. 

'^ My love of painting left me all at 
once, with other girlish follies or enthu- 
siasms,'^ she answered — "I do not know 
that I shall ever paint again." 

"And yet," persisted Wilfred, ^'I fancy 
that you suffer from ennui — ^from want of 
interests and occupation. It is wrong to 
let your talent lie idle — you will not be 
happy and content while you do so ; the 



BOND AND FREE. 287 

sense of possession of unused power is 
always burdensome. ^ Was man nicht niitzt 
ist eine schwere Last/ you know. But that 
it is a wonderful piece of arrogant presump- 
tion on my part to speak in this style, I 
am fully aware. Can you excuse my hav- 
ing done so ? '^ 

"I do not see that I have anything to 
excuse : I am grateful to you for speaking 
as you have done.'* Bending her head 
down over the drawings, she continued 
softly and hurriedly :— 

" You are perfectly right ; and, to own 
the truth, I often long to paint again ; but 
once, when I was very miserable, and when 
I believed myself to be cruelly ill-used, I 
made a foolish vow, which, though I know 
it was foolish and wrong, I am now afraid 
to break." 

" Did you vow never to paint again ? " 

" Never, unless something happened which 



288 BOND AND FREE. 

I believed never could happen. I know this 
must sound very absurd, and I give you 
leave to laugh at me." She lifted up a 
glowing face as she finished speaking, and 
set him the example by laughing scorn- 
fully ; but Wilfred's face was perfectly 
grave. 

"Miss Narpenth, is it not time that we 
dressed for dinner ? " Mrs. Lister asked. 
Both Wilfred and Eleanour started at the 
harshly abrupt tone of the question. 

" Surely it is not yet so late ? " Miss 
Narpenth exclaimed. 

" It is more than half-past five." 

*' Tou must see the contents of the second 
folio some other day, then, Mr. Mason. I 
find it exceedingly pleasant, Mrs. Lister, to 
have unknown beauties in my poor daubs 
introduced to my notice," she added, turn- 
ing gaily to the lady she addressed. 

"You have seen these drawings, I take 



BOND AND FREE. 289 

for granted ? " Wilfred asked Mrs. Lister. 

"Most of them. I am best acquainted 
with the earlier ones — sketches of foreign 
scenes which were executed under a foreign 
master." 

" Mr. Mason has not seen those/' Eleanour 
interposed, quickly. 

" Do you not agree with me, that to 
call works of Art — especially sketches — sug- 
gestive, is to offer them the highest praise ? " 

With a drawing still in his hand, Wilfred 
addressed his question to Mrs. Lister : feel- 
ing as if he had been guilty of rudeness in 
leaving her so long unnoticed, and conscious 
of something unpleasant in the manner of 
both the ladies, he was anxious to draw 
her into conversation. 

**It always seems to me," he continued, 
" that works of which the whole beauty, 
meaning, and force are seen, felt, or heard at 
once, must necessarily be of a low calibre." 

VOL. I. U 



290 BOND AND FREE. 

" One very soon wearies of such works 
at all events; as one does of people with- 
out reticence, who turn their natures inside- 
out for every stranger's inspection." 

It struck Wilfred that this remark of 
Mrs. Lister's was directed against Miss Nar- 
penth. Perhaps Eleanour thought so, too ; 
for when Mrs. Lister had left the room, 
she observed, in a tone of annoyance ; — 

^^ That lady is in a singular humour 
to-day." 

Assisting to tie the strings of a folio, 
Wilfred said — more for the sake of giving 
a fresh turn to Miss Narpenth's thoughts, 
than from any very earnest desire in the 
matter — 

^' If I should be the direct or indirect 
means of re-awakening in you so great an 
interest in your art as shall lead you to 
break an ill-considered vow, I shall be 
much gratified." 



BOND AND FREE. 291 

"That is not likely," Eleanour answered, 
brusquely. 

As she spoke, she looked at him with 
something of haughty defiance in her eyes 
and bearing. At this moment Mr. Nar- 
penth arrived. 

" Papa will insist on your staying to 
dinner," Eleanour observed; she already 
repented of her hasty haughtiness, as she 
saw Wilfred's face assume a wounded and 
surprised expression. 

He answered her with a manner that 
mirrored her passing hauteur. Leaving 
him in her father's hands, she escaped to 
the duties of the toilette; confidently ex- 
pecting to find him in the drawing-room 
on her return to it, 

Mr. Narpenth was hospitably urgent, 
but Wilfred did not choose to remain. 
He passed his evening in abusing his folly 
for having indulged the sudden pique that 

U2 



292 BOND AND FREE. 

prompted him to refuse Mr. Narpenth's 
invitation ; in speculating whether he 
had given Miss Narpenth any cause of 
offence; or whether ill-humour, caused by 
a personal application of Mrs. Lister's re- 
mark, was alone answerable for the rapid 
change from soft, confiding graciousness 
to an air of proud hostility. He weighed 
the possible reasons for this change ; till, 
becoming angry with Eleanour — angry with 
himself, too, for thinking so much about 
her — he resolved that he would not go 
to Thorndon House again until he was 
particularly requested to do so. He had 
no intention of submitting submissively to 
being made the sport of a proud girl's 
caprices. 

Ten days passed before he saw Miss 
Narpenth again ; he had never spent 
five more uneasy, dissatisfied, restless 
days than were the first five of these. On 



BOND AND FREE. 293 

the sixth he set to work: not, however, to 
execute either of the orders — which, offer- 
ing golden alhirements, lay temptingly at 
hand — for that kind of composition which 
he had abjured. Scenes and incidents of 
his life abroad — moods of thought that 
had been on him in various places, at 
various times of day or night — contrasted 
and harmonized aspects under which dif- 
ferent objects had presented themselves to 
him, had been vividly recalled to his 
mind by his conversations with Miss Nar- 
penth ; in spite of his belief that, either, 
he had never possessed genius, or that 
it had left him, he set himself to en- 
deavour to fix these revived impressions 
in a series of poems. 

Apparently he had no longer any 
thought of soon leaving Thorndon. 

END OF VOL. I. 



E. BORN, PRINTEE, GLOUCESTER STREET, REGENT'S PARK. 



UNIVERStTY OF ILLINOIS-UHBANA 



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